Title: Because I Love You…

Author: Morgana
Author’s Email: morganalebeau@yahoo.com
Web page: http://www.paranoid.nl/avalon

 Pairing:  Loki/Thor (Sif/Fandral implied)

Rating:  NC-17

Summary: Thor’s and Loki’s happiness can’t last, as Dwarves. Storm Giants  and  sorcerers are set on destroying them.

Disclaimer: Not mine. No copyright infringement is intended.

All mistakes are mine.

Lyrics by TNT.

Because I Love You…

The paper said there'd be snow on Monday
By Tuesday morning the clouds would break
But now it's been a week
And still I haven't seen the sky
Holding out, I've been pravin'
For a shadow of doubt
It's cold outside but I don't care
I'll wait for you... I will
Now Wednesday came with a gift of sunlight
It kissed my face and it got me high
And for a moment
I knew that I would be all right

And it's all because I love you
I've got so much to prove
Cause everybody knows but you
And That's shame oh yeah
It's all because I love you
No matter what you do
It's cold outside but I don't care
I'll wait for you... I will

No matter what you do
And if we're not together
Well I'll always be your friend
Cause it's all about the love
Yes it's all about the love
That I have for you

 

 

Prologue

 

I wake up to a cold and lonely bed, which is something I have come to detest. Having Loki close, snuggled up to me, makes a much better start of the day! Looking about, I find him seated on the floor. The flames in the fireplace burn strong and I suspect he’s feeding them his energy. I see his silhouette and judging by his facial expression, he’s worried. And when Loki worries, I worry.

 

Loki must be lost in thought as he doesn’t sense me waking up and leaving the bed. Loki is an open book in many ways, but there are corners of his soul which even I can’t reach. I don’t believe he keeps me out on purpose; he simply feels ashamed of his past, and even worse, certain sides to his personality that he believes shouldn’t exist – like his female side, which he showed me only recently; and only because Sif practically bullied him into it.

 

I make my way over to my lover, kneel behind him, and wrap my arms around him. Loki’s mind stirs at once, reaching out to make sure it’s just me and no stranger. “Hush now…” I tell him. “No need to feel cornered.” Loki will always partly remain a mystery to me. Where I’m straightforward, he’s complex. With me, you get what you see, with Loki, you never know what will happen next. I must admit that unpredictability attracts me to him; it’s challenging and I do love a challenge.

 

“It is merely me…” I rest my chin on his shoulder and gently probe his mind in order to find what’s ailing him. “ Why did you leave our bed? You are making a habit out of that.” Loki rests his right hand on top of my arm and squeezes lightly. He’s in one of those moods then. No matter how often I assure him that the past is just that, he can’t seem to let go.

 

“My thoughts kept me awake… I watched you sleep for some time, but then I started to feel restless…”

 

I appreciate the fact that Loki hardly ever tries to manipulate me these days and presents me with honest answers instead; like now. If he does try to manipulate me, he does it because he wants to protect me. He has this absurd notion that he’s my guardian and that he has to keep me safe. I can take of myself, but Loki sees it as his duty to watch over me. “What is on your mind? I cannot read your thoughts…” Which means Loki is keeping something from me on purpose – something he either feels ashamed of, or it’s something he thinks I’ll dislike learning about.

 

“You can talk to me, Loki.. You can always talk to me.” He was there for me when I needed to talk about Jane, but he seldom gives me the chance to support him instead. He has this insane notion that he has to do everything by himself.

 

Loki doesn’t reply and he doesn’t open his mind for me either. That’s when I know that more drastic measures are in order. I resort to one tactic that always seems to work. I move his hair - which has gained shoulder-length by now – out of the way, and press kisses against his neck. During the months that we have been lovers, I have learned where he’s exceptionally sensitive and I shamelessly use that knowledge to my advantage, knowing Loki will share his troubled thoughts with me once he feels reassured of my love. “I want to make love to you…” I whisper into his ear and Loki trembles against me, involuntarily pressing back against me in order to increase the skin-on-skin contact.

 

“You don’t play fair,” Loki mumbles, but as he doesn’t resist my attempt to seduce him, I proceed. “You know I want that too…”

 

“What do you want, Loki? Tell me…” I need him to voice his wishes as he tends to put my needs first. “What do you need? What is your desire? In what way would you like me to please you?” Along with the subtle verbal seduction, I continue to kiss his neck, working my way slowly toward his spine. “Tell me…”

 

“I want you to make me feel loved… To feel like I belong…”

 

It’s not the first time he voiced it like that and it clarifies how much he needs me in order to make –him- feel loved. It shouldn’t have to be that way, but the scars inside his soul are far from healed. I do believe though that each time we make love those scars fade a little more. I’ll do anything possible to see him healed. We all made mistakes; our parents, Loki, and me, and only working together can we create a better future; a future in which Loki is able to accept and love each aspect of his being.

 

“You belong with me… Loki… I do love you…” It’s odd, but past encounters taught me that I merely need to speak the words in order for Loki to relax. It’s not the act of making love itself that changes the color of his thoughts… But I do want to make love to him – more than anything else. I want to see his face though… I need to see the expression in his eyes… “Turn around…” I shift, and sit cross-legged instead. Loki looks at me from over his shoulder, and when my hands admiringly roam his body, he quivers beneath my touch.

 

Loki moves onto my lap and I slip my hands beneath his buttocks, guiding him closer so I bury myself in his body. Once we’re connected, I refrain from moving. As I said before, it’s not actually making love that helps Loki heal, it’s feeling connected. I guide his brow against my shoulder, enfold him in a hug, and rock him slowly. With each passing second, Loki continues to relax and then allows himself to fall. I catch him as I always do, and once he opens his mind for me, I thrust upward – slowly, but definitely staking my claim. “You are mine, Loki… For always…”

 

It takes Loki a few seconds to allow himself to let go, but when he does, he moves along with my thrusts. When he starts to ride me in earnest, I seek out his lips and kiss him passionately. Loki responds with a passion equal to mine, and I wish I could undo the damage I did in the past. The way Loki is right now is the way he is supposed to be – passionate, loving, wild, and beautiful. I love you, I whisper into his mind. I always will…

 

I love you too, Thor… Loki’s pace doubles and his movement grows frantic as he takes us higher and toward release.

 

Unable to hold back anymore, I crush him against me, bury myself as deeply as I can inside his body, and lure his thoughts closer so I can caress his mind. Loki trembles against me, reaches his climax, and claws my back, holding on while his orgasm triggers mine. Clinging to each other, I smile at him and guide his head against my shoulder once more. I continue to hold him, savoring the ultimate sensation of being one in body and mind.

 

Once my love fills every dark corner of his mind, I try again. I don’t play fair and Loki knows it, but he always lets me get away with it. If he truly minded me finding out in this way, he wouldn’t allow it. “Care to tell me now what is ailing you?” Loki sighs, but doesn’t move away, and so I tighten my hold on him. “You can trust me… Whatever it is, it will not make me turn away from you. Remember, we are one…”

 

Loki draws in a deep breath, and when he starts to speak, he whispers the words against my shoulder. It seems, he’s apprehensive about telling me while looking at me. It’s fine with me though, as long as I find out what’s making him feel depressed.

 

“This can’t last… Something will happen. I’ll do something stupid and ruin this… One way or the other, you’ll recall you hate me…”

 

The words he speaks tell one story, but his mind – which is still wide open --  tell another and I listen closely, knowing Loki finds it hard to describe his feelings. Not because he wants to trick me, but because he has little experience expressing himself in such a way.

 

I’m afraid you can’t accept me – all of me… All my different sides… You can’t love –me-.

 

That is not as helpful as I had hoped. His thoughts leave ample room for misinterpretation. The only way to deal with this is to confront him with it. “What side of you do you fear I cannot accept?” Loki instantly raises his head and stares at me in shock. “You opened your mind to me – thankfully. How else am I to know what vexes you?” Loki doesn’t seem pleased, but I know he won’t run away – not anymore. He’ll face this, because I’ll make him.

 

“I’m a shape shifter, Thor… I feel at home in many forms…”

 

Loki still isn’t helping much, but I’m beginning to see where this is going – if my assumptions are correct, that is. “Are we talking about your female form and the way I reacted upon seeing you like that?” Now that I come to think of it, Loki never assumed that form again. Did I unwillingly hurt his feelings? But I was too stunned to make much sense of it – that’s all I can say in my defense. “I am right, am I not?” I sense Loki’s confusion now that I figured it out. I slide my fingers into his hair and mess it up. I like it better that way—instead of it lying slick against his skull. “Loki, you surprised me that evening… And not just me… You stunned Sif as well.”

 

Loki shrugs in an attempt to dismiss the seriousness of the situation we’re in, but I refuse to let him get away with it. “You want to be able to express that side of your personality around me, but you are afraid of the way I will react?” I don’t need Loki to confirm that for me – the way he averts his eyes and tries to avoid contact is confirmation enough. That, plus the fact that his thoughts froze so I can no longer read them. He’s trying hard to fool me – to make me believe that I reached the wrong conclusion. “Loki, do not shut me out…”

 

“The need sometimes overwhelms me,” Loki says, suddenly giving in. I feel relieved now that he has started to admit the truth. “I had to hide it in the past, and ever since that evening, the need to acknowledge that part of me has been growing stronger. I realize that seeing me as a female makes you uncomfortable, and I vowed to refrain from taking that shape around you, but it feels… It makes me feel…”

 

“Incomplete…” Now, it all makes sense. “Loki, I told you before, and I will tell you again; you can assume any shape you like around me. I love you – even if you looked like a frog.” That last addition thankfully causes him to smile. “Although making love to you in that way would prove rather impossible.” The gods help me, but I’m growing aroused again. I want to possess him again – I need to reestablish the connection that binds us, but this time, I will approach the matter differently. I made a mistake in the past and I won’t make it again.

 

Gathering Loki in my arms, I lay him down on the fur in front of the fireplace. The flames are dying, and it tells me just how conflicted Loki feels. I can help though and I will. Loki parts his legs so I can move between them and I happily claim my rightful position as his lover. Drawing in a deep, steadying breath, I lay my hands on him and run my fingers down his abdomen. Loki is growing aroused as well, but this time, I want things to be different. Loki’s eyes widen, as he probably already picked up on those thoughts in my mind.

 

I nod, lean in closer, and kiss along his collarbone. “I want to make love with you in a different way… Change into your female form for me, Loki. Let me show you how much I love you – regardless of your appearance.” It’s his soul that calls to me; his body merely presents a way to express my love. “I want to give you this, as many times as you need it.” Loki doesn’t seem convinced though and remains apprehensive about my request.

 

“Are you certain you can deal with it?”

 

“Deal with it? By Odin… Loki, I love –you-. Making love with you – in what way whatsoever brings me great pleasure…” Making love with Loki in his female form will be different, and I might need a little time to figure out the new rules, but I want to do this. “Do it… I want to know you in that way.”

 

Loki’s thoughts tell me how shy he really feels about this. He feels like he’s about to expose a part of himself that should remain buried for all eternity – that it will displease me… That I will turn away from him and will stop loving him. “You fool…” I kiss him, making him work hard for drawing in his next breath. I refuse to let go of his lips until Loki faces that part of himself he’s ashamed of.

 

Thor… I’m frightened…

 

I am not… I want to know you that way… Loki…regardless of your form, it will be you making love with me and I will not stop loving you because you are giving into your need…  I find myself growing impatient, though I will never tire of kissing Loki. His lips tend to bruise easily and he always acts so beautifully shy upon realizing it’s rather obvious that I kissed him breathless. Whenever Odin looks at him then, Loki makes a run for it, acting timid all of a sudden. When Loki does that, it only makes me want him more.

 

Suddenly, the texture of his skin changes. It feels much softer to the touch. I’m relieved Loki’s giving in and it makes me eager to help him accept this part of our relationship. I continue to caress his skin while the transformation takes place. The black hair grows long and the dark strands try to hide the growing swell of breasts forming beneath my hands. Firm, and eager for my touch they arise against the palm of my hands. “Beautiful…” I tell Loki and whisper the word into his mind as well.

 

Loki trembles beneath me and the green eyes take on an utter vulnerable and helpless expression. I understand that particular reaction – Loki doesn’t know how I will react to the change, but I do… It doesn’t matter much to me in which shape I get to worship my lover’s body, and I must admit that making love to Loki in this form also appeals to me.

 

I’ll change back the moment you say it… if you don’t like me being this way then…

 

I don’t allow Loki to finish that thought. I claim those incredibly soft lips and hope to convey the message that I love Loki, no matter what form he occupies. It’s odd, even though the body beneath me is distinctly female, I still think of Loki as male…

 

“Thor…”

 

Loki’s voice sounds lighter, but also softer, more gentler and it makes me even more eager to make love – right now. “Truly beautiful…” My thumb brushes against a nipple, which instantly hardens beneath my touch. “I want you…” I can’t help panting hard, realizing that I want to bury myself in my lover again… That I need to claim this body as well.

 

“Do it…”

 

Loki sounds uncertain though and I dive into his mind to find out what’s holding him back. I start to smile though, realizing he merely feels timid because we never made love in this way before. “Do not worry,” I tell Loki. “I greatly desire you…” I guide Loki’s right leg onto my shoulder, move closer, and then push inside. I close my eyes in rapture at feeling the welcoming heat and push deeper until I buried myself completely. The sensation is exquisite and it’s something I would love to experience again, if Loki lets me.

 

Loki’s closed eyes tell me that my lover still feels bashful and I allow it. If Loki needs time to adjust, I will give him that. “We should have done this earlier… There is no reason why we waited so long… Loki… one day, you will make me lose my mind with desire…” The green eyes open, focus on me, and Loki raises a trembling hand to touch my face. I react at once and lick the fingers presented to me. Loki’s body reacts in a way new to me. The moist heat that enfolds me tightens, and it tells me that my caress pleases my lover.

 

My desire though is quickly getting the better of me and I need to find release. “I am sorry, but…” This time, it’s me who quickens the pace, thrusting inside the welcoming body in search of release. Loki places his hands on either side of my head and pulls me closer. I claim his lips, chase his tongue with mine, and our play quickly pushes me over the edge. Thrusting one last time, I tremble when my climax overwhelms me. I fail to support myself and rest my weight atop Loki’s body. Arms quickly embrace me and pull me closer still. “No, I am crushing you…”

 

You’re not… It’s still me… remember?

 

Loki… thinking is rather… impossible at the moment. By the gods… you will be the death of me… I cannot seem to get enough of you… Loki’s hands caress my back and then the long fingers slide into my hair. Having those sharp fingernails scratching my skin is a new, but welcome experience. I still worry about Loki though and roll onto my back once I regain my senses. With Loki now resting atop of me, I marvel about the soft skin and allow for my fingers to follow the voluptuous curves that Loki’s body provides me with. I squeeze the firm buttocks and wished we could make love again, but alas, Loki wore me down.

 

Loki’s form trembles beneath my fingertips, and when I look into those green eyes, I see the shock in them. Loki’s mind mirrors shock as well, and when I attempt to read his thoughts, I realize he’s hiding from me. “Tell me,” I implore him.

 

“Would you…mind…if I stayed like this… for now?”

 

Loki sounds incredibly insecure and my heart goes out to him. “You can stay like this for as long as you like… I love seeing you in this form too.” I hope he believes me for it’s the truth. The large eyes close momentarily, but then open again. Their long lashes fascinate me. “I agree with Fandral – you look utterly ravishing in this form. If you stay like this, I might find it increasingly difficult not to ravish you!” Actually, making love again sounds perfect to me, if only I could! Loki’s straddling my lower body and radiates lust and heat. I doubt he’s aware of it though. Giving up on resisting temptation, I cup those two perfectly firm breasts in my hands, teasing the nipples back into hardness. Loki’s nervousness continues to grow though and it vexes me that I don’t know why.

 

“Are you sure you don’t mind?”

 

“I am sure,” I shift position until I can claim Loki’s lips. Kissing him, I wonder why he’s hiding his thoughts from me. I assumed he would feel more confident once he realized that I love him still –even in his female form. But something happened just now and I hate being clueless. I will find out though –somehow.

 

~~~

 

“Are you not accompanying me?” Normally Loki is at my side when we attend the weekly council, consisting of our parents, Sif, Fandral, and Heimdall. Loki however doesn’t appear like he wants to come along this time. Still in his female form, Loki sits on the window sill and stares outside. The sense of longing in his eyes tells me something is wrong. “You do not have to confine yourself… If you want to fly, change into a bird.” I can tell he’s itching to do so and I wonder why he doesn’t. I’m grateful that he covered himself up, as his female body equals seduction in his purest form. I can barely refrain from touching him.

 

Loki turns his head and looks at me which his incredibly green eyes. His lips, still bruised from kissing, call out to me, and I can only stop myself by recalling that my father expects me to join them any moment now. I had hoped that our lovemaking would set Loki’s mind at ease, but it didn’t. Loki appears even more depressed now.

 

“I don’t need to go flying,” Loki says, but his expression tells a different story. “Must I accompany you? Can’t you attend the meeting without me?”

 

The meeting must wait as I need to find out what’s wrong with Loki first. I sit down next to him, gather his hands in-between mine, and chuckle at seeing the perfectly manicured fingernails.

 

“What amuses you?”

 

Loki sounds light-hearted, but he can’t fool me. My reaction actually worries him! “No matter what you do, you do it to perfection.” I press a kiss onto the back of his hand. “Green does suit you…” The green dress, lined with silver and fur hugs the curved body, highlighting it in all the right places. “Fandral might end up suffering from a heart attack if you show up like that.”

 

“I don’t find him attractive,” Loki states – much too sharply.

 

“I know that, and even if he were to kiss the ground you walked on, I would not feel threatened. Your heart belongs to me; I know that.” Loki sighs and I can tell he’s about to give in. “We should leave now. We are already running late.” I rise from the window sill, make my way over to the doorway, and wait for Loki to join me.

 

Using his magic, Loki conjures up leather boots and a cloak made from the finest fur; it hugs his shoulders and shields most of his body from view. The golden headdress he wore that evening reappears, completing the outfit. I wiggle an eyebrow at him. “You will impress them – do not worry about your appearance.” Loki however raises his right arm and Gungnir moves toward his master. Loki curls his fingers around the metal shaft. If he needs Gungnir at his side to feel in control, so be it.

 

I raise my arm and incline my head, hoping Loki will take the hint to finally join me. When he does, I can’t resist temptation and curl my fingers around his hand, bringing it to my lips so I can kiss it. “You look stunning…” Fandral will be drooling all over Loki and I might tease him about it, but all in good jest.

 

Loki still appears apprehensive though as he draws in a deep breath. His long fingers tremble against mine and make me realize that this is more difficult for him that he wants me to know. I feel proud of Loki when he follows me out of our rooms and into the corridor. The Guards’ reaction upon seeing Loki in his female form is quite interesting. Suddenly they stand straighter and are even quicker to close one door and open the next. You are already making quite an impression. Before this day is over, I will be fighting off your suitors!

 

Loki gives me a quick, but sharp, look and I chuckle to assure him that I am merely joking. I don’t doubt though that he will have gained a large number of followers before the sun sets.

 

```

 

I tighten my hold on Loki’s hand, for I am under the impression that he would rather make a run for it instead of attending our weekly council. I don’t understand the problem though; if he feels so uneasy about being in his female form, why doesn’t he change back? He is not bound to stay in this form.

 

The Guards open the doors and I actually sense their eyes following Loki’s form and it’s not, like Loki fears, because they detest seeing him like this, but because they feel attracted to him. Loki does look tempting and I understand their reaction. Loki shoots me an annoyed look, which tells me he picked up on my thoughts. He’s shielding his mind, but reading mine? I actually think that is a good thing; it would really worry me if he no longer wanted to be inside my mind.

 

“Loki! I never dared hope you would grace our council in such a lovely form!” It’s Fandral of course, and he marches toward us, bowing toward Loki and chuckling delightedly. “I am not worthy to look upon you, but my eyes disagree and I cannot seem to avert my gaze.”

 

Loki rolls his eyes and I sense he’s about to throw a sneering comment at Fandral, so I tug at his hand. Once Loki looks at me, I whisper into his mind, Let him… He means no harm and he is not making fun of you. Believe it or not, if it was not for me, Fandral would gladly court you. Loki snorts at hearing that, but keeps quiet and doesn’t lash out at Fandral.

 

Next, Sif walks up to us. I haven’t figured out her emotions where Loki is concerned. One moment she seems to barely tolerate him, and the next, she appears to be jealous. But there are also those moments during which she acts protectively toward Loki. I will never pretend to understand a woman’s mind…

 

“Loki, how…interesting you would join us in that form,” she remarks, but I sense no malice in her. She’s merely surprised that Loki would show up in this manner. Loki ignores her too – thankfully.

 

“Remarkable…” Heimdall, who stood in the back, now approaches and his golden eyes glide over Loki’s form. I sense no attraction in that gaze but I do notice some admiration in their golden depths. “The things you managed to hide from me throughout time are remarkable… I never knew you were capable of this…” Heimdall probably wonders why Loki’s willing to reveal this part of him, and I must admit, I wonder about the same thing.

 

“Loki?” Our mother stares at Loki in obvious surprise, but then she chuckles and opens her arms. “You are quite extra-ordinary… I never suspected…” She doesn’t need to finish that sentence as everyone feels the same way. Then she releases Loki from her embrace and turns to make eye-contact with her husband. “Odin… Did you know about this?”

 

Odin’s face glows with something akin to pride. I can’t label the exact emotion, but it’s a positive sensation. This development actually pleases my father.

 

“I have always known that Loki is a shape shifter. It is his primary gift… it is the very source of his magic… It never occurred to me though that you would desire to take on this particular form, but it does suit you, my daughter.” Next to me, Loki stamps his foot – rather loudly, and if looks could kill, Odin would be in trouble. “I meant no disrespect,” Odin adds quickly.

 

The damage has already been done though. What is wrong? I ask, while trying to soothe his mind. Is it because he called you his daughter? Loki however remains quiet – both verbally and telepathically, leaving me to wonder about that particular reaction. Hoping to appease him, I wrap my arms around Loki and pull him close against me. Everyone here accepts you as you are… and then the truth comes to me. But you cannot…why? I can tell that Loki wants to move away from me and to step out of the embrace, but to his credit, he doesn’t, and stays right where he is.

 

“I would not mind having a daughter,” Frigga says, trying to salvage the situation. “Loki, you are perfect the way you are…”

 

“Even if you were a frog,” I whisper into Loki’s ear, hoping to do away with the building tension. Much to my relief, Loki chuckles and relaxes.

 

“I’m not changing myself into a frog,” he tells me.

 

“Maybe we can change Volstagg into one?” I suggest, relieved Loki is less tense and feels comfortable joking.

 

“He would turn into a very fat frog, I’m afraid,” Loki replies and this time the smile on his face is genuine.

 

I twirl a lock of his long hair around my finger and decide I like that look on him. It would still suite him if he went back to his male form. Loki gives me an inquisitive look at receiving that thought and nods, accepting the compliment I just paid him. But then again, Loki looks good all days. Now Loki chuckles again, runs his manicured fingers through his hair, and casts me a shy, but challenging look. Behave, I tell my lover. That is what the bedroom is for… Not in here… Loki thankfully understands and locks away that certain look – much to my relief. I doubt the others would have appreciated me making love to Loki right in front of them!

 

```

 

Later that night, I lie down next to Loki and pull him into my arms. He maintained his female shape during the day and I’m becoming accustomed to seeing him like this. You are in an odd mood, I whisper into his mind, which he keeps open, but he still doesn’t allow me to read his thoughts. When I do get a glimpse, I get a sense of Loki being extremely worried and even angry with himself. I don’t need bother to instigate any lovemaking as I know he won’t react to it.

 

“I’m worried,” Loki admits after a long moment of silence. His hair tickles against my chest and his fingernails absentmindedly move against my skin. “I did something stupid – again.”

 

“What did you do?” I haven’t let him out of sight all day, so he can’t have done anything wrong, which means Loki merely assumes he did something wrong -- but that observation is flawed.

 

“I might have made the biggest mistake of my life… How could I have been so stupid? Why didn’t I realize what was happening?”

 

Loki’s talking in riddles and it tells me that he won’t confide in me yet. He isn’t ready to share what’s on his mind, and sadly enough, that means I can’t help. “I doubt it is as bad as you make it out to be. Nothing out of the ordinary happened today – nothing you should worry about.” Loki arches an eyebrow and allows me to read his mind.

 

You think this isn’t out of the ordinary?

 

Eagerly, I embrace the chance for our minds to connect again. If you are referring to your changed form – aye, it is extraordinary, but hardly anything to worry about…A mental sigh drifts into my mind; apparently Loki remains unconvinced. I love you, Loki, regardless of the form you take.

 

You won’t love me anymore when you know what I did…

 

Loki, will you tell me what worries you? I am sure it is nothing you need to fret about.

 

Loki however breaks off our telepathic exchange and also averts his gaze, effectively blocking me from deepening our contact. When he does open his mind again – rather unexpectedly-  he sounds confused and nervous.

 

You’ll find out soon… There’s nothing I can do about it… No, that’s not true, I can stop it, but if I do, you’ll be furious. No matter what I do, it’s a no win situation for me.

 

Loki worries me more than I want him to know. If you cannot discuss the matter with me, for whatever reason, will you talk to someone else? I would rather have you confided in me, but I know you well enough to know that will not happen. Is there anyone you would entrust your worries to? I pray there is someone, for I don’t want Loki to drive himself mad for no apparent reason.

 

Maybe I can talk to Odin…

 

His choice surprises me. Odin and Loki never were close, although I must admit that father has been trying hard to bridge the distance that separated them in the past. Maybe father succeeded in winning Loki’s trust – he always had Loki’s love to begin with. Then talk to him, please… and do not stall. I know what you are like when you think you are in trouble. I remember the way you tried to hide when we were little. I would always find you though. To some degree, father intimated Loki back then. I didn’t realize it at the time and I regret making Loki always feeling second best. Odin, Frigga, and I didn’t do it on purpose, but it still happened.

 

You’re not to blame, Loki says as he lifts an arm. His fingers slide into my hair and settle there. I am…

 

No, Loki, you are not… There have been days when he let go of the self-hatred, but sometimes the nasty feeling still rears its ugly head. “You are not to blame,” I repeat aloud. “You were a child… Odin and Frigga the adults and our father made a fair share of mistakes where you are concerned – unfortunately.”

 

Loki quickly averts his gaze, but I place the palm of my hand against his cheek and force him to make eye-contact again. Loki’s eyes always showed his feelings in the past; his needs – mostly the need to feel loved, but now, in his female form, they speak even louder of that need. I always felt protective of Loki, and because I am currently holding a female in my arms, my protective feelings towards him double. “I will always love you, Loki… And we will overcome whatever problems we face – as long as you will let me.”

 

Loki closes his eyes and a single tear flows down his cheek. I catch it and watch it sit on my fingertip. “I do not want you to cry—not even a single tear.” I kiss Loki’s eyelids one by one, and when he opens them again, I realize that the balance has been restored. He isn’t ready yet to confide his fears to me, but he won’t shut me out either. I can only hope that Odin will set his mind at ease. Hopefully father can convince Loki that he can entrust himself to me… I do hope so.

 

TBC

 

Part 1

 

I would rather not do this, but Thor’s right; I need to talk to someone. I would have preferred to talk to Fay, but as she isn’t around I must settle for Odin instead.

 

We’re alone. Frigga, realizing my need for privacy, left shortly after my arrival. She insisted I’d hug her first though, and as I have never been able to deny my mother anything, I did. After that hug, she seemed appeased and left.

 

There’s only one drawback to my mother’s retreat; I’m alone with Odin now. The way he looks at me tells me he’s on to me. I can’t help feeling intimidated; much has to do with the subject I need to discuss with him. I’m sure I’ll lose the little trust and respect I gained since my return to Asgard.

 

“Loki, I shall be honest with you… When I reach out to you I sense that you are afraid of me… You feel afraid and ashamed… I want to tell you that you do not need to feel like that. I am your father, and although I have not always been the best father, I still love you. I want you to know that nothing you will tell me will leave this room. I will not betray your trust – neither shall I judge or punish you…”

 

Hearing that should set me at ease, but it doesn’t. I know Odin’s opinion will change the moment he finds out about what I did. Even when I had betrayed Odin and Thor I hadn’t felt this apprehensive. I can only hope I still have a family and a place to call home after this.

 

“Loki… You are shaking yourself to pieces…” Odin moves his chair closer to mine, reaches for my hands, and gathers them between his. “Calm down… I will not cast you out… I will not banish you… but I must confess to being curious. What do you think you did is so horrible that you fear my wrath?”

 

I draw in a deep breath, realizing I can’t run away from this. I either face my fears or deal with my problem by eliminating it, but I can’t do that… Thor would never forgive me.

 

“Why do you not start at the beginning? What happened that caused you to feel distressed?” Odin sounds and looks worried and I regret worrying him, but the truth is that I don’t know how to handle this myself. “I made a huge mistake, Odin…” I can’t make myself address him as my father, for I doubt he’ll still want me as his child after I have finished.

 

“Loki, when I took you from that temple and named you my son, I meant for it to last -- forever. You are my son and nothing will ever change that.”

 

I remove my hands from his hold, pull my knees up to my chest, and wrap my arms around my legs. My behavior always changes when I’m in my female form and I hate being this way, but I know I can’t change things. “My first mistake was to give in when Thor told me it was fine for me to take on my female form around him. I should have told him no, but I wanted it too… I wanted him to acknowledge that part of me.”

 

Odin nods and whispers, “Go on, Loki…. So far I have not heard anything that worries me.”

 

I laugh, quite embittered I’m afraid. “I said that’s when it started.” Odin surprises me again when he moves his chair closer still. He rests a hand on top of mine in an effort to reestablish the physical contact. It’s odd, he never reached out to me in that way before. He always hugged Thor, took Thor’s hand in his, but he always seemed hesitant about comforting me. I tell myself to endure the touch and if possible draw some reassurance from it. Maybe he won’t cast me out after all.

 

“Loki, are you going to make me draw sentence after sentence from you? I understand that you feel apprehensive about confiding in me, but I cannot help you if I do not know what troubles you. I promise to help, my son… Regardless of your problem.”

 

I must tell him – I know that. I owe him the truth… I owe Thor the truth as well, but I’m too much of a coward to tell him. I close my eyes and can’t stop a blush from forming on my face. “Thor and I made love…” Odin chuckles and hearing that makes me open my eyes again.

 

“I would have been surprised if you had not!” Odin says and squeezes my fingers. “I do not think of that as a problem.”

 

“We made love while I was in this form…” I bite onto my lip until it starts to bleed. I force myself to refrain from nibbling on it when I taste blood, but that leaves my frustration no way out. Odin frowns – by the gods, do I really have to spell it out to him?

 

“That was probably a remarkable experience for both of you,” Odin says, obviously wondering why it would be a problem. “As long as you both enjoyed it though…”

 

It feels odd to discuss this with Odin, but since there is no one else, I have to continue and must admit my shame. “You don’t understand… When I’m like this, I’m female – fully female…” Odin blinks, shakes his head, and still doesn’t understand. Damn, do I really have to say the words? “Don’t you understand? I was careless… I forgot about…” I give Odin a hopeful look – please let him figure it out!

 

“I am truly sorry, Loki, but I still do not see a problem with that.”

 

I close my eyes, turn my face away from him, and slip my hands into my sleeves so Odin can no longer touch me. I can’t bear feeling his support, knowing it will turn into rage within seconds. “I conceived…” Odin’s fingers curl around my arm, holding on tightly, and I cringe, suspecting it’s the last thing he wants to hear. I wonder how long it’ll take him to fully grasp the situation and call me on it.

 

“I’m with child…” I flinch and can’t stop myself. I must look at him in order to find out how he’s dealing with the news. “I know I made a mistake – again… I didn’t want to conceive, but when it happened, it was too late. I couldn’t stop it. One should think that I learned my lesson back then, but no… I let it happen again… I’m sorry, but I don’t know what to do.” Now that I told him, the dam breaks and I can’t stop talking. “I need to know what you want me to do… As long as I stay in this form, the child will continue to grow inside me and I’ll give birth within a fortnight. If I change back to my male form, the pregnancy is terminated…”

 

I stop talking at seeing Odin’s shocked expression and an old shame creeps up on me again. “I’m sorry… I’m sorry… I never wanted for it to happen and I’ll do whatever you tell me to do… I won’t fight you over your decision, not like back then. I’ll accept your ruling…”

 

“Stop talking, Loki…”

 

I flinch, press myself tighter against the comfort of my chair, and wait for Odin’s anger to descend onto me. An enraged Odin isn’t a pretty sight – I should know, I made him furious in the past – not just once, but on several occasions. It won’t be long before he’ll start yelling at me. I can’t run away though – I brought this upon myself and need to face him.

 

“Loki…I…” Odin actually seems lost for words, which surprises me. “Did you actually say that you are with child?”

 

“A son…” I return to biting my bottom lip, but the sharp taste of blood makes me stop again. “My magic tells me so…” But I doubt Odin will allow the child to come into existence. He won’t want his grandson to be conceived in that way… Or even if he does allow me to give birth, he’ll probably declare me an unfit parent and take my son away from me. It happened before…

 

Odin closes his eye, leans back against the comfort of the chair, and distances himself from me. He no longer pretends interest or the need to touch me. That doesn’t bode well for me. “Just tell me what you want and I’ll obey.” I will do anything as long as he allows me to stay close to Thor.

 

Odin opens his eye again, draws in a series of deep breaths, and seems to compose himself again. “Loki,” he says and shakes his head.

 

I reckon that says it all – he won’t allow me to keep my son.

 

“No!” says Odin sharply. “You are wrong!”

 

I already suspected that he monitored my mind and now I’m sure he does. I nod and say, “I know it was a mistake… I can undo it though…”

 

“No, I do not want you to ‘undo’ anything!” Odin shifts forward on his chair and rests his hands on my shoulders. His fingers involuntarily grow entangled with my long hair and I try to move away from him, but my space is limited, stuck in the chair as I am.

 

“Loki, do not dare end your pregnancy! I am not angry with you… And neither will Thor be mad with you… Do you not understand the amazing gift that you carry inside you? My grandson – your son… I…” Odin grows quiet, as he seems lost for words.

 

Did I understand correctly? Does Odin want me to have the child? Of course… he’ll allow me to give birth and then he’ll take my son away from me, like he took Sleipnir away from me.

 

“Oh, Loki, I should never have done that, but I never realized how much Sleipnir meant to you…” Odin sighs and appears to grow old and weary in seconds. “I should never have asked you to change yourself into a mare to trick that stallion… And when I realized what had happened, I acted selfishly – claiming the foal as my own. It never occurred to me that you might feel strongly about Sleipnir… Once you returned to your normal form I thought… I did not think at all… Loki, I made a huge mistake back then. I mistreated you and for that I want to apologize.”

 

All I can do is stare at Odin in shock. What’s he babbling about?

 

“Loki, promise me that you will keep the child… That you will take good care of yourself and your unborn son… I want you to give birth to him, and no, I will not interfere… He is your son – and Thor’s. You are his parents and will care for him. You will raise him, and Loki, I pray you will not make the mistakes I made. Be a better parent than I was back then.”

 

I find it hard to believe Odin. There must be a trick – there always is. “Why would you allow for that to happen? What are your intentions for him?”

 

Odin shakes his head and the lines on his brow grow even deeper. “I will not meddle. No plans… Loki, I did not take you with me that day because I had a use for you… I took you from that temple, because when you looked at me, I felt love for you…I still do… And it pains me to know that you do not believe me when I say that I love you… Loki, you are my child… My son… My daughter… It makes no difference to me… I love –you-.”

 

Odin moves closer to me and pulls me into an embrace. I never expected for him to do that and tense in his arms. Odin however remains quiet and that gives me a chance to compose myself. Cautiously, I reach out to him with a tendril of my mind, but I don’t expect him to let me in. When he does open his mind for me, I feel stunned. He never did that before… His thoughts speak of his love for me and of his sorrow for past mistakes. He’s sincere – he really wants to make amends.

 

“Sleipnir is yours…” Odin suddenly whispers. “I should have returned him to you a long time ago.”

 

I don’t know what to say to that. “It’s been such a long time… we never shared a bond.” Odin prevented that from happening when he claimed the foal and took it away from me. I vividly remember giving birth to him and licking him clean before I changed back to my normal form. I was hurting all over, but Odin was only interested in the foal. I didn’t let it show, but my heart bled when he took Sleipnir away from, hardly awarding me even a single look.

 

“I am sorry, my son…” Odin whispers and hugs me tighter. “Thor is not the one only who needs to learn humility. I was arrogant as well and in my arrogance I hurt you…”

 

I don’t know how to react to Odin now that he’s opening up to me. I can’t deal with it, not now that I have my own share of problems. Odin seems to notice and composes himself. He collects himself, and once he’s in control of his emotions, he looks at me. He has a determined expression on his face, which makes me wonder what will come next. He said he wouldn’t interfere and that he would allow me to keep my son, but can I trust him?

 

“Loki, you need to tell Thor what is happening. You need to tell him that you carry his son… He will not lash out at you… he will not cast you out… Instead, he will react the same way I did – with joy. Do you not know how much Thor wants to have children? You would make him happy – incredibly happy.”

 

“I’m not sure,” I mumble, “Considering it’s –me- who is having his child…”

 

“Loki, Thor loves you with all his heart. He would rather die himself than see you hurt. The fact that you are having his child will make him love you even more. Loki, Thor loves only you… wants only you…”

 

“So you think I should tell him?” When I came here, I didn’t think Odin would say that. I was convinced he would order me to terminate the pregnancy at once –that he wouldn’t want his grandson to be part Frost Giant. Odin nods and offers me a gentle smile. “And you believe he won’t turn me away? That he can deal with this?”

 

“Deal with it? Thor’s greatest wish is to be a father. He will love you even more for giving him that!” Odin looks at me in disbelief. “Loki, you are giving him the greatest gift possible.”

 

I’m still not convinced though. “Maybe I shouldn’t keep the child…”

 

“Loki, do not doubt yourself. You will a better father than I ever was! You will love your son and you will raise him the way I should have raised you. You will shower him with love and he will never worry about not being loved. You will make sure he will never feel second best. Loki, you must allow yourself to do this…”

 

“Maybe you’re right,” I whisper carefully. I want to keep the child and raise him – raise him with love surrounding him. Thor will make the best possible father – even if I fail, Thor will make sure our son will want for nothing.

 

“Have some faith in yourself, Loki. You have much good in you, and your strength continues to amaze me… I will not take this child away from you… You can allow yourself to love him.”

 

I do want to keep my son… “But I can’t change my form during the pregnancy… if I do, the pregnancy will be terminated…” I hate admitting it, but I might need help during the next two weeks. By the gods, I’m grateful that my pregnancy is shorter than that of humans. Nine months would be too much to bear!

 

“We will keep you safe… I promise…” Odin says. “Can I tell your mother that you are with child? I will make sure she keeps quiet about it… I cannot possibly keep this to myself.”

 

I don’t like it, but I can hardly forbid him to confine in my mother. “If you must…”

 

“Thank you…” Odin’s smile turns radiant when he looks at me again. “You have my blessing, Loki… Please keep my grandson safe…”

 

“I’ll try…” Although I want to keep the child, I’m not sure it’ll work. I’ll have to be extremely careful – no shape shifting for two weeks. I won’t be able to cast any spells, because it’ll damage the life growing inside me. In order for my son to grow, he’ll need all the energy I can give him. I’ll practically be helpless and I don’t like the fact that I’ll have to rely on others should a Dwarf, Storm Giant, or another enemy come after me.

 

```

 

I stall on my way back to the quarters which I share with Thor. My conversation with Odin left me shaken, as he didn’t react the way I thought he would. He wants me to have the child and to keep him.

 

Keep him… I would have kept Sleipnir if Odin had let me. I never intended to mate with Svađilfari, but it was the only way to distract the stallion. Odin’s orders had been precise; to keep the fortifications from being completed. The builder needed Svađilfari to help him, and the only thing I could think of was distracting the stallion by turning myself into a mare. Which worked—but it worked too well.

 

Even after all this time I don’t know why I agreed to mating… Maybe it was the mare’s instinct that drove me to do it. It taught me to never assume a form for too long, which is also the reason why I became hesitant to change my form in the past. I needed Fay to remind me that there’s also beauty in the ability to shape shift.

 

“Loki?”

 

The voice, sudden and coming from too close, pulls me from my thoughts. I can no longer afford to lose myself in that way; I must be careful – for my son’s sake.

 

“Loki? You do not look well,” Sif cocks her head and eyes me closely. “Did something happen?”

 

“Nothing… I’m merely tired.” It’s a stupid excuse but the only one I can come up with.

 

“Thor must be wearing you down,” Fandral quips in a bemused voice. “Which means my chances of ever wooing you are practically non-existent!”

 

I sense the jest in his words and manage a smile. “I told you before that I’m not attracted to you.”

 

“More is the pity!” Fandral is all smiles though and takes it in stride. “Where are you headed? Maybe you will allow us to escort you? That way I can enjoy your presence a little longer.”

 

I roll my eyes. Fandral –is- amusing and I don’t mind him teasing me. “I’m heading back to my rooms,” I tell him before actually realizing I’m confiding in him. I must be careful – I’m beginning to like Fandral and that implies I want to trust him. I can’t trust anyone though except Thor. Sif coughs in order to draw my attention.

 

“Does Thor know that he has competition?” she says and inclines her head in Fandral’s direction.

 

It’s hard to say why she said that – out of amusement? Jealousy? Or something else? “Thor has no competition and he knows it.” To my surprise, Sif falls into step with me when I resume my way home. I’m not surprised to see Fandral escort me, but why’s Sif still here?

 

“Do you like being female?” Sif suddenly asks. “Or do you prefer being male? I do not understand why you would settle for a female’s body when you could be male… Male warriors are more respected, even revered while we females are barely noticed.”

 

Sif feels insecure? That realization causes me to halt in my tracks. I never thought she would feel lacking. “Both forms feel natural to me… Although I lived as a male for most of my life, I don’t feel predominantly male… I’m both… That concept might be hard to understand, but to me, as a shape shifter, it feels right.”

 

Sif nods, but seems preoccupied. “I often wondered what my life would have been like had I been born into a male body…”

 

I can’t believe I’m going to do this, but I say it anyway, “You are a force to reckon with, Sif… And I would rather have you at my side than having to fight against you.” At hearing that, a smile forms on Sif’s face.

 

“Thank you,” she whispers and my instincts tell me she’s sincere.

 

A silence descends onto us and it gives me time to think – too fully accept what’s happening with me. I’m with child… I really made a mess this time! I wrap my arms around my waist as if to shield the new life from my gloomy thoughts.

 

“Loki? I meant what I said earlier… You look tired…”

 

Fandral’s worried, which makes me like him even more, but I can’t admit the truth. First, I need to know if Thor can and will accept this. I’m about to reassure Fandral that I’m fine when a spell of foul magic drills itself a way into my mind. Unable to breathe, unable to move, I freeze, and gasp at the enormous power behind that spell.

 

“Loki? What is amiss?”

 

Fandral sounds worried and he should be. I can counteract this spell, but if I do, it’ll kill the fragile new life inside me. Casting a counter spell will drain me of my energy and I won’t have enough power left to maintain the pregnancy. I react the only way I can – I reach out with my mind and latch onto the person closest to me. I would have preferred to contact Thor, but I need to keep the use of my power to a minimum. Unfortunately, it’s Sif’s mind I encounter and I’m not sure I should proceed. Sif gives me a sharp look, frowns, and takes a step away from me. I don’t have a choice. If I want to keep my child, I need her help.

 

Spell… I’m under some sort of spell… can’t move… need help… Using only a minimal amount of my magic I try to find out what kind of spell it is and what its origin is. Demon-made… A demon cast a spell on me and it renders me immobile. But that’s not all… Another spell is added and I hear the shadowy words in my mind. Sif, tell Thor, it’s a demon…

 

The pull grows stronger and I can’t fight it. I’m helpless, which scares me – not for my own sake, but because of the child I carry. Can’t resist… Looking at my hand I’m not surprised to see it become transparent. The spell is meant to transport me to some place unknown to me. It’s driving me mad, knowing I could easily counteract it, but because of the child, I can’t.

 

“Fandral, get Thor! Tell him a demon cast a spell on Loki! Do it!”

 

Fandral looks conflicted as he doesn’t want to leave me. There’s nothing he can do though. The spell’s growing stronger and my body is fading… I don’t know where it’ll take me and I shudder at the thought that I’m helpless – that I can’t defend my unborn son.

 

“No!” Sif’s outcry takes me aback and suddenly her body impacts with mine. She throws herself at me, wraps her arms around my shoulders, and holds on.

 

No, you must let go… or the spell will take you too… I try to warn her, but she refuses to let go. Her gaze fastens on me and I see the determination in her eyes. Let go… Don’t do this…

 

“I took an oath to protect my King, and by Odin, I will, even it means my death!”

 

She sounds determined, and I know Sif well enough to know that I can’t change her mind. There’s nothing I can do to begin with – my hands are tied. While my body vanishes, Sif’s pulled along as well, and a moment later, we’re on our way, traveling the astral plane. I don’t know who is behind this. It’s a demon, but I don’t know his name… Prepare for the worst though.

 

I can take it –no matter what they hand out! I will die fulfilling my oath if necessary.

 

You shouldn’t have done that – not for me… For Thor, yes, but not for me.

 

You are my King too, Loki… or Queen as it stands and I will not desert you!

 

She’s brave, I’ll give her that – I merely hope she won’t have to pay for it with her life.

 

```

 

The moment our surroundings appear I realize we’re in trouble. The spell transported us to Muspelheim, home of the Fire Demons, and to one in particular; Surtr. Thor and I had dealings with him in the past and we never parted on good terms. This is bad –really bad. Because where Surtr is, Skagg is close as well, and Storm Giants seldom forget being pummeled. Thor threw him out of Asgard… Maybe now Skagg is after revenge? And since they can’t get to Thor, they went after me?

 

“Loki… Are we where I think we are?” Sif doesn’t sound happy at all.

 

“Muspelheim,” I confirm. “Home of Surtr. Skagg probably lurks close as well. We’re in trouble.” Our surroundings stabilize and I realize we’re in the main hall of Surtr’s keep, which consists of rock, but foremost of fire. The flames surrounding us aren’t benign though- they’re as menacing as their master and there’s no way I can control them. They answer to one master only.

 

Acting on instinct, I pull Sif close to me. She frowns at me, but allows it. “Sif, you must escape if you can. Surtr will kill you the moment he feels you’re ballast. Maybe I can create some sort of diversion for you to flee.” Sif cocks her head and eyes me sharply – so sharply that I’m starting to wonder if she’s on to me. But no, she can’t know I’m with child and I won’t tell her. If Surtr finds out about my condition he’ll use it against me.

 

“Why are you allowing for this to happen? Why are you not defending yourself? You defeated Surtr before; the Fire Demon is no match for you!”

 

“Don’t ask me that…” I look about, knowing Surtr must be close. He enjoys playing mind games and I can’t let anything slip—he’s listening, I know that. Sif however doesn’t seem convinced, and I don’t blame her. Had our situations been reversed, I would be asking questions too. She shakes her head at me, signaling that we’re not done. Sif however, is the least of my worries.

 

“Loki… Finally, after all this time, I will get a certain measure of revenge. It was careless of you to lower your defenses… I waited for so long and almost gave up hope, and then -- mind wide open, defenses down and… Capturing you was easy!”

 

Surtr sounds pleased with himself and I can’t blame him. I’m the trophy he wanted for many years. I turn around and steel myself against the foul stench of sulfur that surrounds the Fire Demon. Surtr isn’t bound to his form – he doesn’t have to appear as solid fire, he can also take on the guise of an Asgardian, but today, he consists of blazing red fire. Facing him, I clear my mind of any thoughts that might give me away.

 

“Now that you have me, you can let Sif go. She’s of no use to you… It’s me you want.” I doubt he’ll let her go, but I must try. I don’t want Sif to die because of me. Surtr’s booming laughter echoes through the hall and makes the flames rise higher. Apparently my request amuses him; like I had feared.

 

“She chose to come along. If she had listened to you, she would still be safe and far away from here. But she will never obey you, as she does not trust you… No one trusts the Trickster… Sif knows better than to believe you or listen to you… But unfortunately for her, that thinking brought her here and I have no intention of letting her go. I doubt she will try to fetch help, but I cannot rule it out as she has this unfortunate sense of duty. And even though she hates you, you are still her King…or Queen. Pray tell me, Lord of treachery, what made you choose this particular form and why stay in it?”

 

“That’s none of your business.” It’s probably unwise to challenge Surtr and anger him, but the whole situation is getting to me and I fear for my son’s life. I don’t know what I’ll do should he force me to use my power to do his bidding. I lock that particular thought away – I’m postponing the inevitable, but I need time to get used to the thought that no matter what I’ll do, it’ll end in death; either Sif’s, the child’s or mine.

 

“You –will- learn manners, Loki… and you –will- do as I say when I am through with you!”

 

I pissed Surtr off, but sweet talking won’t get me anywhere. Surtr is after revenge and no matter what I’ll do, that won’t change. I ignore the look Sif gives me; I tried to get her out, but to no avail. Now she has to endure her fate. I told her not to come along, but she didn’t listen. It’s her fault she’s here.

 

“Skagg!” Surtr calls out, and a moment later, the Storm Giant appears. A menacing smile deforms his bulky face and he’s definitely looking forward to carrying out the Fire Demon’s orders. “Take them down below – to our deepest dungeon. You need not worry about Loki – my spell binds his powers, but be careful around Sif…”

 

“They will not move against us,” a new voice says, one that makes it even clearer to me that there is no escape. “I will keep an eye on them both…” Skurge appears from the shadows and his expression tells me he’s bent on revenge as well. I made too many enemies in the past!

 

Skagg pushes me forward and I try to hold onto my dignity – and balance. Suddenly Sif moves closer, wraps her arm around me in order to steady me, and glares at the Storm Giant. “Do not touch him!” she hisses at Skagg.

 

“Don’t,” I whisper into her ear. “You don’t want to anger him.” I hope Skagg won’t pay her any notice as he’s busy ogling me.

 

“I still have a bone to pick with you,” Skagg sneers. “If it had not been for you killing Ivaldi Thor would never have beaten me.”

 

And since they can’t get to Thor, they’ll take it out on me. Skagg seems to have forgotten about Sif’s sneer, for which I’m grateful. I might need her at my side, and for one moment, I’m relieved she’s here with me – that I’m not alone.

 

Skagg gives us another push and nudges us down a long flight of stairs. Skurge is thankfully nowhere in sight. He’s called the Executioner for a reason and wouldn’t hesitate to kill Sif or me. At the end of the staircase there’s a long corridor, and while we walk in darkness, Sif moves closer still, tightening her hold on me. I can’t help peeking at her thoughts and find she feels intimidated too. Well, she has good reason to feel like that!

 

“In there, and move it!” Skagg opens a door and eyes us impatiently.

 

“Don’t give him a reason to hit you,” I whisper to Sif, who nods her head at hearing it. I step into the dungeon, which will be our prison. It’s cold and dark in here and I shiver. I’m careful though not to wish for any heat, because once Surtr’s fire appears it will burn us. Skagg throws the door shut behind us and darkness surrounds us.

 

I probably shouldn’t do this, but I need to know where I am. If this prison holds any danger I need to be aware of it for my son’s sake. A small flame leaps from my finger and settles in the center of the room. It provides poor illumination, but at least I can see my surroundings now.

 

Our prison is made of stone – there are metal bars in front of the small window that sits at several feet above us. I wouldn’t try to escape that way though—feeling the magic that surrounds it. Once you touch those bars, Surtr’s fire will consume you.

 

“I prefer my rooms at home,” Sif mumbles as she scans our prison as well.

 

“So do I…” I’m tired and need to get off my feet. A human pregnancy lasts nine months, and during that time, a woman’s body has ample time to adapt to the changes. Everything happens slowly and comfortably. It’s different for me. I only have two weeks – and then I’ll deliver the baby. Normally, Asgardian females rest during those two weeks in order to make sure the pregnancy goes well as the risk of miscarriage is high. Therefore I pull the flame back into my mind, careful not to waste any energy.

 

I lean against the cold, damp wall and then allow myself to slide down against it until I’m sitting down. Normally the cold, moist environment wouldn’t affect me, but everything is different now that my body is working hard on maintaining the pregnancy and protecting my son.

 

“Loki, are you injured?”

 

Sif squats next to me and eyes me questioningly. I’m tempted to confide in her, but I know I can’t. If Surtr’s listening in he’ll find out, and there’s no way of knowing what he’ll do then. As long as my secret remains safe, my son’s also safe. “I’m tired…” I need to feed her some excuse, even though I can tell she doesn’t believe me.

 

Her fingers curl around mine and her eyes widen at feeling how cold I am. “You feel cold… and you are shaking… Are you sure it is mere fatigue?”

 

“Don’t ask me that, Sif… For both our sakes, let it rest.” Her expression however tells me that she knows something ails me. She doesn’t continue her questioning though, thankfully.

 

“We need to escape,” Sif says in a firm voice. “We must find our way back home.”

 

“Sif, Surtr will never allow it. He waited ages for a chance to avenge himself and he’ll not throw that opportunity away. The next time I’ll ask him to let you go I can maybe strike some bargain with him.” I know I’m lost – that it’s too late for me. Surtr will kill me – slowly and painfully. But maybe I can find a way to help Sif.

 

“I am not leaving your side,” Sif says and shakes her head. “Something tells me that you need me, and even if you did not, I would stay. I swore an oath…”

 

“I release you from it… That oath is void and no longer binds you to me. Sif, I’m serious – I don’t want you to die because of your misplaced sense of duty. I don’t deserve your loyalty – don’t you understand that? You should return to Thor’s side and serve him, if that’s what you want… Not me.”

 

“What you are saying is nonsense, Loki. You cannot release me from that oath as I do not wish to be set free.”

 

I tried – by Odin, I tried. “Sif, you’ll die if you stay.” Suddenly Sif’s hands rest on either side of my head, making sure I’m listening. Normally, I would shake her off, but the expression in her eyes tells me I had better not do that. Whatever she’s about to say is important to her.

 

“Loki, I know we had our differences in the past, but I am not blind. Neither do I cling to the past. I –know- that you have changed. I –know- that Thor loves you and that you love him back. I accept that, and because of that, I choose to serve Thor and –you-. The oath I took would be worthless if you were a dishonorable King, but you are not. Loki, stop pushing me away and accept that I am your friend and let me do my job. Let me protect you --  because that is my task in life and I do so freely. Do you understand?” I nod, feeling rather stunned. “And do you accept that too?”

 

I nod again, what else can I do? I don’t want to need her, but I do – I will greatly need her once my pregnancy starts to show. The little strength I’ll have left at that time, I’ll use to create an illusion whenever we’re around our enemies, but I won’t be able to sustain it all the time. Sif –will- find out why I’m fatigued and then I’ll need her – need her to fight for my son.

 

TBC

 

Part 2

 

I storm into my father’s rooms and know I should get my emotions under control again, but I can’t. Ever since Fandral told me about the abduction, I have been on edge. The first thing I wanted to do was to go after Loki and Sif, but then I realized that I don’t know where to look for them. Loki said it was a demon’s spell and that is the only clue I have, hardly enough to go off in a wild search for my lover. “Father, why summon me here? I should be on my way tracking down Loki!”

 

“Sit, Thor… Sit down…”

 

I halt in my tracks and my eyes widen at seeing the concerned look on my father’s face. Deep lines of worry sit edged onto his brow and they tell me that my father worries about Loki as well. He didn’t summon me in order to spite me.

 

“Thor, we will help you in any way we can, but you need to listen to your father first,” Fandral says.

 

Fandral, Volstagg, and Hogun give me trusting looks and I recall that Sif vanished as well. In spite of their worries for Sif, they are composed and setting an example I should follow.

 

“My son, sit down…”

 

I give into my father’s request, though I would rather bring down Asgard in search of Loki. Suddenly my father’s hand settles on my shoulder and the calm he radiates helps me to calm my mind in turn. I look at him and realize he’s more than just worried – he looks like he’s about to panic. I have never known Odin to panic. My mother looks equally petrified and realizing they worry too, helps me regain full control of my senses. I’m not alone in this fight – they will support me. “Father, why waste time?”

 

“Two reasons,” Odin says calmly, though his voice trembles. “Heimdall has not arrived yet and without him telling us what has happened, you will not know where to look for Loki… And secondly because we need to talk before you leave. There is something you need to know…”

 

I understand why he wants Heimdall to join us – the guardian hears and sees everything – well, almost everything – and might help me find Loki. But what is father babbling about? What do I need to know before I can leave?

 

“Thor, my son… Have you tried reaching Loki yet?”

 

Odin’s question makes me reconsider running off in search of Loki. He’s right; I should try to contact my lover first. Loki can tell me what happened – if he’s conscious! “Not yet, but I can do so now.” Odin nods and pats my hand. I close my eyes, blend out everyone close to me, and search for Loki. It takes me a while to find him, and when I do, Loki’s mind is tightly sealed.

 

Loki, can you hear me? If you can, answer… Please let me know you are alive! I’m not sure he will answer; he might need to keep himself hidden and then he will ignore my plea. When no reply is forthcoming, I try once more. Loki, I have no idea where to find you. Help me! I will come for you, but I need to know where you are! Suddenly my thoughts connect with Loki’s and I breathe a deep sigh of relief. “He is alive,” I tell my friends and family.

 

Thor, I can’t do this – shouldn’t do this… You’ll come after me and then he’ll capture you too…

 

Loki’s reluctant to talk to me, but I have got my ways to make him confide in me. I promise to be careful… Loki, I can only fight the enemy if I know who has taken you!

 

It’s Surtr, but he has allies… Skagg and Skurge… I strongly urge you to be careful if you do decide to come for me. They’re waiting for a chance to avenge themselves… I’m the bait…And I’ll probably be dead before you get here.

 

I dislike the fact that Loki seems to have given up. Loki, you must fight! You cannot give up…

 

I’ll try, but it might be a lost cause…

 

Unexpectedly Odin whispers into my ear, “Thor, ask Loki about his secret… Tell him that you need to know what we discussed…”

 

Loki’s secret? But he has so many of them! I can’t give up though… Not after telling my lover to persevere. Loki, our father is here with me… He wants you to tell me about the secret you have been keeping from me. He wants you to tell me what you two discussed… Loki, is this about your odd behavior lately? Loki doesn’t reply, which worries me. Loki, are you still here with me?

 

I am… Thor, I can’t tell you… Not under these circumstances…  Loki’s mind grows dim for a moment, but then his thoughts return. Sif is well. You need to find a way to free her. I’ll try to convince Surtr to let her go, but he doesn’t seem inclined to do that…

 

I am happy to hear that Sif is well, but we were discussing you, Loki, and this secret you are keeping… Why will you not tell me? Father believes it is important that I learn what it is.

 

As I said, I won’t tell you… It wouldn’t be fair to you… Forget about the secret… it isn’t important… Thor, Surtr will play games – be prepared, should you come after me.

 

What do you mean when you say – should? Loki, I –will- come after you! I will leave tonight…And our friends will accompany me – Fandral, Volstagg and Hogun. We are ready to free you – and Sif… I add belatedly.

 

Thor, Skagg’s yelling and approaching… I need to end this conversation… They can’t find out we can communicate in this way.

 

Loki, whatever happens, do not give up, do you hear me? Fight! I love you… I am not prepared to lose you… Loki however breaks off the connection, causing me grow irritated. I need to get to Muspelheim as quickly as I can! Surtr is bad-tempered on his best days and Loki is right – the Fire Demon will hurt him. Looking at my father, I want to rise from my chair. “I am leaving!” Odin however merely shakes his head and I freeze in the chair.

 

“Did Loki tell you?” Is all my father asks.

 

I shake my head. “No, he did not. He said telling me would not be fair.” Odin sighs and seems to shrink into himself. I wonder what this is about. My father isn’t merely worried – something else is going on. “You know about his secret. Loki told you; the two of you discussed the matter.”

 

Odin nods tiredly. “Aye, we did… And I vowed not to tell you, but I cannot keep my word under these circumstances. Not merely do you deserve to know the truth; you –need- to know it before going to Muspelheim.”

 

“Tell me then, for I will not stay for much longer. Loki needs me and I am wasting precious time talking to you!” I love my father dearly, but if he doesn’t start talking soon, I’ll get up and march out of this room.

 

Odin swallows nervously, reaches for my hand, and pats it. “Loki confided in me that he is with child – your child… Your son.”

 

I blink and the absurdity of the situation makes me want to burst out in laughter, but judging by Odin’s expression, that would be the wrong thing to do. “That is impossible!” Loki can’t possibly be pregnant – can he? I frown, recalling Loki telling me that he is both – male and female – a shape shifter and…

 

“It is true,” my father says, gently squeezing my hand. “When Loki assumes his female form, he is female in every sense of the word… When the two of you made love, it did not stay without consequences.”

 

Fandral produces an odd sound, something between coughing and gasping, and when I look at him, I see my own confusion mirrored on his face.

 

“Allfather,” Fandral starts in disbelief. “Are you telling us that Loki is actually…pregnant?”

 

Odin nods. “I understand that it is hard to believe, but it is the truth. I never fully understood the range of his powers until recently.” Odin shifts his attention away from Fandral and back to me. “Thor, this abduction could not have come at a worse time. Now that Loki is pregnant, his ways to defend himself are limited. He cannot change his form, because if he does, it will harm the child. He cannot cast any spells because his body needs that energy – the child needs to grow… I am afraid Loki is rather helpless… I failed him again… I promised him protection and I failed him… utterly failed him…”

 

Although I hear Odin’s words and understand what he’s telling me, I’m still busy trying to grasp the concept of Loki actually being pregnant. It makes sense though – the way he looked at me after we made love that night. He knew – he knew the moment it had happened he had conceived and he didn’t tell me… Why didn’t he? “Father, why did Loki keep this from me?”

 

“Can you not guess why?” Odin says. “You know what Loki is like… You know the way he thinks… His fears still shapes him, no matter how hard you try to heal his scars… Loki still does not believe he is actually worthy of your love, his position at court…”

 

Aye, I understand what my father is trying to tell me. “Loki did not think I would welcome the child…” Realizing that actually hurts. I thought he knew I loved him and that I would adore any child he would give me.

 

Odin nods. “Loki feared that you would not accept the pregnancy—and that I would interfere.”

 

Frowning, I look at my father. “You?”

 

“I interfered before… I hurt Loki in the past… You do not know what happened back then… I kept it from you and Loki did not want you to know.”

 

I know he isn’t doing it on purpose, but Odin is driving me insane the way he keeps hinting at things.

 

“Do not tell us that Loki has been pregnant before,” Fandral says. “I have known him all my life… I would have noticed!”

 

Fandral’s words echo my thoughts. Can something like that have happened without me knowing about it? Even when Loki wasn’t my lover, he was my brother and we were close!

 

“One day, a builder came to Asgard, promising to fortify our city. I had seen his work and knew his walls would protect us, so I accepted. In turn, he asked for Freya’s hand in marriage. To complicate matters for him, I told him he had to finish within a set time period. He accepted and started working. That was when he brought in his stallion… It did most of the work for him and the fortifications proceeded as planned. Freya however did not want to marry the builder and I called upon Loki to prevent the builder from completing his work. Loki changed into a mare, distracted the stallion and… Well, they mated…”

 

I stare at my father in utter disbelief. I remember the incident, but not that Loki had been involved. We had just reached our majority and yes, Loki sometimes disappeared, but I never knew why.

 

“Sleipnir,” Fandral says unexpectedly. “You are referring to Sleipnir.”

 

Fandral’s mind works faster than mine and I blink at him in confusion. When my father starts to talk again, I look at him in disbelief.

 

“Aye… Loki, in the form of that mare, carried the foal to term and gave birth to it… back then I was thrilled that Sleipnir was such a magnificent creature and I wanted him for myself… I must admit, to my eternal shame, that I took the foal from Loki without asking his permission. I did not realize, until recently, how much it damaged him.”

 

“You discussed it earlier today, when Loki came to you to talk about this new pregnancy…” Oh, I know how his mind works. “He assumed you would either tell him to terminate the pregnancy – or take the child away from him.” I raise an arm, rub my temples, and shake my head at my father’s deeds. “Like you took Sleipnir away from him…”

 

And I never noticed anything… Loki had never let anything slip. Hadn’t tried to get close to Sleipnir, hadn’t tried to get into touch with his…son. My head spins and I need some fresh air. I walk over to the window and deeply inhale the crisp air. This is an utter mess.

 

I cannot believe I did not know these things. I cannot believe no one ever told me. I cannot believe my father kept this from me – not out of evil intentions, but because he felt it was not important enough to tell me. I cannot believe Loki did not trust me enough to confide in me – I cannot believe he assumed I would deny him our son… My head continues to spin and I rest my forehead against the cold stone of the wall.

 

How I wish Loki were here to help me make sense of everything. Acting instinctively, I reach out to him, but there is only silence – he does not answer me, which worries me. I can’t believe he would push me away – he knows when not to shut me out, so the only other possible explanation is that he can’t answer me because he is in trouble. “I am going after him. I will travel to Muspelheim and I –will- free him. I will bring him back here – Loki and our child…”

 

“Your son…” Odin whispers. “Loki was quite certain the child would be male.”

 

“Our son…” The words taste funny on my lips – unused and new, but I will quickly get used to them. “My son…Our son…” All of a sudden, so much more is at stake – not just rescuing Loki and Sif, but my unborn son as well.

 

“We will come with you…” Volstagg says. I want to protest, but he’s quick to react. “Surtr took Sif as well – we will free her…”

 

I know it is not the whole truth – they would have insisted on coming along even if Sif hadn’t been abducted. It is almost like Fandral knows my thoughts, because suddenly he nods and says, “We care about Loki too, Thor… We will make sure both of them will return… All three of them…” A weak smile forms on his face. “You are going to be a father, Thor…”

 

Actually hearing it makes me nervous. What if I fail to save Loki? What if Surtr will end their lives before I can get to Muspelheim? I have no time to lose! “I am leaving now,” I announce.

 

“And I am coming with you, Thor… You will need my services…”

 

Turning about, I see Heimdall standing there. I had forgotten he was to join us. “I welcome your help, but how are you going to get to Muspelheim in time? Mjolnir will take me there, but that leaves you without transportation.” But even with Mjolnir flying me to Muspelheim the journey will take a week at least.

 

“Take Sleipnir with you,” Odin says. “He can easily carry two riders.”

 

“There are four of us though,” Fandral remarks.

 

“Geri and Freki will take you… Prepare my chariot!” Odin calls out to the Royal Guards, who are quick to carry out his will.

 

It will be the five of us then against Surtr, Skagg, and Skurge. I’m confident that we will defeat them, but I worry we might be too late. “Catch up with me then!” I throw Mjolnir toward the sky and fly out of the room. I can’t wait for them to get ready to leave – I must leave now!

 

```

 

They catch up with me the next day when I need to rest. I land close to a mountain, which will provide me with cover. Surtr’s vision reaches far and I want him to remain unaware of my plans for as long as possible. Volstagg and Hogun arrive first, riding my father’s chariot. Then, Heimdall and Fandral join us as well, and when Sleipnir lands close to me, I look at the stallion in a different way. How come I never suspected a thing?

 

Sleipnir seems to grow aware of my attention and turns his head my way. Sleipnir’s eyes have always been green, but I never made the connection before. Loki’s offspring – taken away from him after he gave birth to the foal. While my friends gather around the campfire I built, I head toward Sleipnir instead. I never tried reaching out to him before –in order to read his thoughts – if he has any. How does an animal’s mind work at any rate? But he isn’t just a horse, considering Loki is his mother…

 

Something flashes at the edge of my mind, but the sensation vanishes too quickly for me to grasp the meaning of those thoughts. However, it does confirm that Sleipnir is more intelligent than I thought and that we should be able to communicate in that way. It’s something I need to explore after freeing Loki and Sif.

 

“Thor, we brought food!” Volstagg calls out and offers me some meat. I take it, chew on it, and force myself to sit down close to them. It’s important that we act as a team, especially once we face our enemies. We need a plan, but since Loki is the brains of the group, I find myself in dire straits.

 

“We will get to them in time,” Fandral says and pats my back. “You need to have faith in Loki…”

 

I sigh deeply. “I know he will fight for his life – too much is at stake… He will do anything he can to ensure his safety, but he is quite defenseless, Fandral. He cannot fight – if he does, he might damage our unborn son.”

 

“Then have faith in Sif,” Volstagg says. “She will keep Loki safe…”

 

I can only hope she will look out for him. I look at Heimdall and wonder what he has seen. “Do you have any news on Loki? Can you see him right now? Do you know what is happening?” Heimdall’s face briefly contorts and I realize the news isn’t good. “What do you see?”

 

“They are alive,” Heimdall says softly. “Surtr enjoys tormenting Loki… The fact that Loki shows himself in his female form irks him… He wants Loki in a recognizable form, but Loki refuses to change back and we know why… Surtr will not remain patient – he will resort to violence.”

 

Something in Heimdall’s voice tells me he’s keeping back and I call him on it. “What did Surtr do? He hurt Loki, did he not?” If he did, the fire demon will pay for it.

 

“Surtr lets Skagg carry out Loki’s punishment… Loki bears the pain and managed to keep his pregnancy hidden so far…”

 

“I will end their lives… I will slay them – all of them…” The thought of them hurting Loki and the danger of damaging our unborn son… It’s enough to make me go berserk with rage. If they kill Loki, then no one will be able to save them. I will kill them… By Odin, I will make them die slowly!

 

“Thor, Loki is coping and your unborn son has not been hurt… You must hold on to that thought… You cannot give in to madness. We need you to be rational. Loki needs you to be strong. You need to free him… You cannot let these thoughts roam free. Control yourself,” Heimdall speaks in a stern voice, but I sense his sincerity behind the words. He worries too – he cares about Loki…

 

“I will do anything I can in order to free him,” I vow. “No, I did not phrase that correctly. I –will- free him and take him home… No one will take our son away from us… No one… I will not allow it!”

 

```

 

We make good speed, but another day has gone to waste. A day during which Loki had to face Surtr without me. A day, during which he had to keep our unborn son safe. A day, during which I couldn’t be at his side.

 

Beneath me, Sleipnir runs fast, effortlessly carrying Heimdall and Fandral. Every now and then, I try to probe his mind, and each time I do, I grow more convinced that Sleipnir is aware of everything that is happening. He knows what is at stake—he knows this involves Loki – and he knows Loki gave birth to him. Reading Sleipnir’s mind is like running on quicksand, and when he realizes what I am doing, he is quick to throw me out. I wonder if Odin knows about the extent of Sleipnir’s powers.

 

“Thor, we need to rest soon! Feri and Greki are growing tired!” Volstagg calls out, and it is true – the wolves have been slowing down.

 

I don’t want to rest though – resting means throwing away precious time. I can’t leave my friends behind though, and when I see a suitable place to rest, I give the sign.

 

This time, Fandral builds a small fire and the thoughtful expression on his face makes me wonder what he is thinking about. Fandral must have sensed my interest as he looks up and shrugs.

 

“I was thinking about Loki and the way he would indulge me by creating our campfire.”

 

I sit down next to my friend and draw in a deep breath. “I miss him too,” I admit. “I miss him so much it hurts…” I never thought I could feel this way about someone. When I was in love with Jane, things were different. Aye, I loved her, but it wasn’t the all-consuming love I bear Loki.

 

Heimdall and Volstagg join us and sit down as well. I am lost in thought and don’t notice Sleipnir approaching the fire as well. The wolves always maintain their distance, but the stallion seems to seek out our company these days.

 

Familiar thoughts brush against mine and I immediately assume them to be Loki’s, but when I reach out, I realize it isn’t him. This mind feels familiar though, and when I look at Sleipnir, I understand why. Kindred spirits – mother and son… Loki’s legacy. “You are welcome here,” I whisper at the stallion, wondering about him. Loki likes to keep secrets and I wonder if Sleipnir has any of his own.

 

The stallion continues to look at me, acting ignorant, and pretending non-interest, but in the back of my mind he searches for any memories containing Loki. I let him… But I do keep an eye on his poking.

 

“Heimdall, any news on Loki?” Fandral asks the very question I’m afraid to put to Heimdall, who has been remarkably quiet. Heimdall seems reluctant to reply and my heart grows cold.

 

“Loki preservers. He refuses to give in to Surtr’s demands… He knows Surtr merely uses him as bait – in order to draw you near, Thor.”

 

I notice the way he avoided answering the real question. “Is he in pain?” I ask, making it very clear that I demand an answer. Heimdall doesn’t say anything, but nods. I release the breath I have been holding and close my eyes. I will make them pay for hurting him.

 

“And Sif? How does she fare?” Volstagg asks.

 

“So far Surtr has shown no interest in her,” Heimdall says. “Loki pleaded with Surtr to let her go, but the Fire Demon refuses to set her free. He has not touched her though… She remains safe.”

 

Fandral sighs in relief, but his brow remains furrowed. “Surtr wants you, Thor, and is using Loki to make sure you come to him on his terms.”

 

“Surtr is wrong when he thinks I will hand myself over in order to save Loki… I will free Loki instead and kill Surtr.”

 

“Aye, that might be his game plan,” Heimdall says softly. “Do not give in though, because Surtr will never let Loki go.”

 

“I know that…” I simply have to take out Surtr for once and for all. “And Loki knows it too.” At hearing me speak that name, Sleipnir raises his head and looks at me. Those eyes are surprisingly intelligent, considering he is supposed to be nothing more than a horse – even though a horse with eight legs. “Sleipnir… I never knew about you… I never knew Loki gave birth to you… I assumed you were just a horse… I did not know you are Loki’s son.” The expression in Sleipnir’s eyes changes, but I can’t label the emotion in them.

 

“None of us did… Not even I suspected a thing…” Heimdall inclines his head and offers Sleipnir his respect. The stallion blinks and walks away from us. He lies down next to a large tree. He keeps watching us though.

 

“I never fully realized it, but there is something odd about Sleipnir,” Heimdall continues. “His mind… It is like nothing I ever felt before… But no, that is a lie – it reminds me of Loki’s… I never worked it out though.”

 

“He is more intelligent than he wants us to know,” I add. “Whenever I probe his mind, he knows what I am doing and he either allows me in or pushes me away. I wonder about Loki’s legacy in him…”

 

Heimdall nods. “An intriguing thought…”

 

```

 

It’s close to sunrise, which means we will leave within the hour. I dislike having to pause, but we do need to rest – the animals especially. My back rests against the trunk of a tree and the cold earth beneath me serves to remind me that I am still alive, and contrary to Loki – free.

 

Loki… Are you still alive? Can you answer me? Please Loki, if you can, do… I tried reaching out to him earlier, but he didn’t answer me. I do hope he will react now, for I need to know he’s still alive. Loki? Please, if you can answer me, please do… I am not beyond begging at this point.

 

Stop yelling! You’re thinking much too loudly!

 

Words can’t describe the degree of relief I feel at hearing Loki in my mind. I am sorry, but I worry about you… At least now I know you are still alive. I need to hold on to that; Loki is alive – that is all that matters. I am on my way, Loki, and I am not alone. Our friends are here as well.

 

Sif’s fine…

 

I draw in a deep breath, realizing why he said that. Thank you for sharing that, but as Surtr has no interest in her, I do not fear for her well-being. I fear for yours though… Has he…hurt you? I probably shouldn’t have asked, since there is little I can do considering the distance, but I need to know how Loki is coping – and what kind of condition he will be in when we meet.

 

Some cuts and bruises, nothing that will kill me.

 

It took him awfully long to answer though and I suspect he needed a moment to think about what he was going to say. And now tell me the truth… A telepathic sigh travels through my mind, causing my worries to increase. Loki, what did Surtr do?

 

It’s like I said, some cuts and bruises… a few burns, but nothing that will kill me. He might even keep me alive until you get here… I ‘m bait for sure, he said so himself. His plan is to kill us both… You need to be extremely careful when you arrive.

 

I will… Loki… I know we need to discuss the pregnancy, but I am scared he will run away again and break off the connection. I have to try though. Father told me that you are with child. I sense Loki’s emotions; first, it is disbelief, which changes into anger, but then burns itself out and becomes acceptance.

 

He promised he wouldn’t…

 

He did not have a choice… I asked you to confide in me… Instead you deflected my question, bringing up Sif instead. Loki, why did you feel you cannot entrust yourself to me? Do you not know how much I love you? How much I will love our child? Our son? Loki, I never thought I would be a father one day and you giving me a child is the greatest gift ever.

 

You would accept this? Our…son? Are you sure…you want that?

 

Of course I am sure! Loki, your son – no, our son – is already precious to me. Please, do whatever you can to make sure the two of you are safe. It will take me four, maybe five days to get to Muspelheim, but I am on my way and I need you to be strong.

 

I hoped you would accept this, but wasn’t sure… You always seemed apprehensive about my female form, and when I realized that I had conceived, I… panicked… I didn’t think you would want your child to be conceived that way.

 

You are utterly mad, Loki… maybe that is why I love you so much… Loki, I want you and I want our son in our lives… Fight for him… fight for us, promise me, Loki. Promise me that no matter what Surtr does to you, that you will fight.

 

I would never do anything to harm our son… But Thor, you must understand… I can’t defend myself… And Surtr has been making demands… I can’t give in to them, because if I do, I either need to change my form or cast a spell and when I do that…

 

I have faith in you, Loki. You will find a way to stay safe… I waver; should I tell Loki that I know about his relationship with Sleipnir? Or would that be crossing a line? After all, Loki never told me himself.

 

Thor, what’s on your mind? Why are you hiding your thoughts all of a sudden? I’ll do anything I can to keep our son safe, no matter what kind of demands Surtr will make – I didn’t mean it like that…

 

Loki, no.. You reached the wrong conclusion. As I said, I have complete trust in you… I do not doubt you… It is something our father said…

 

What did Odin say?

 

Loki sounds alarmed and I dislike the fact that I made him feel like that. He told me about Sleipnir…

 

Ah…that… It slipped my mind… I know I should have told you, but… I felt embarrassed that something like that had happened to me… I never intended to mate, and even less to end up pregnant… How angry are you about that?

 

Angry? Loki, I am not angry with you! The self-doubt is still there, and I suspect, so is the self-hatred. I know I can’t disperse it completely, but maybe I can help him accept what happened. I am not angry with you, Loki, I repeat, once his mind drifts further away from mine. I am angry with our father though! He told me that he took Sleipnir away from you without your consent… I am afraid arrogance is a trait which runs in the family… And you were at the receiving end much too often…

 

Odin did what he thought was right…

 

That is not what you really believe… Shall I say the words for you? Odin hurt you by taking Sleipnir away. The way he acted in his arrogance scarred you for life, and when you realized you were pregnant with my child, those fears returned. That is why you were afraid to tell me… That is why you ran to our father – hoping against all odds that he would allow you to keep this son – which he did. He must have stunned you.

 

Thor, I can’t discuss this now… I can’t…

 

Loki sounds broken, and all I want to do is wrap him up in my arms, but I can’t. Sleipnir has your eyes… I never noticed it before… and his mind feels akin to yours…

 

Don’t, Thor… Don’t go there… Leave Sleipnir out of it.

 

I sense his pain and comply as it was never my intention to hurt him. Loki, the others are waking up and we are getting ready to leave… Please be alive when I get there…

 

I will try…

 

Loki’s mind drifts away from mine and I grow cold at the loss. How I wish Loki were in my arms, right where he belongs!

 

TBC

 

Part 3

 

“I do not understand you,” Sif remarks as she rips off a piece of cloth from her cloak in order to wipe away the blood from my face. “You possess the power to stop him. Thor and you defeated Surtr in the past –easily, I might add. Why do you refuse to defend yourself now?”

 

She has been asking me that for the last two days – ever since Surtr started pestering me. Surtr simply enjoys seeing Skagg beat me up. He likes it when my skin bursts open and my blood starts to flow. Surtr is careful though – he tells Skagg to stop whenever I threaten to lose consciousness. He wants to make sure I stay alive so he can continue to play games with me.

 

“Loki, I asked you a question, damn it!”

 

Jane taught her how to swear and Sif only does it when she feels she lost control. It makes me like Sif a little more – she isn’t perfect either. “And I told you to stop asking… I can’t give you an answer.” I need to focus my energy and can’t let her distract me. I need to make sure my unborn son has a fair chance. I must ensure his survival.

 

“Has Thor contacted you? Has he reached out to you? Does he know where we are?”

 

While Sif wets the cloth with water and dabs at the wound marring my brow, I try to lock her out – to no avail though.

 

“Loki, talk to me!”

 

And suddenly I know what she’s doing – why she’s getting on my nerves. “Don’t worry – I’m still sane… And trying to work on an escape plan…” Hopefully that will reassure her.

 

“I am sorry,” she says, softer this time. “But you are not yourself. You are acting strangely… You are not the Loki I have come to know.”

 

I draw in a deep breath after redirecting the last bit of energy which I can spare. I raise my head and look at her. I owe her some sort of explanation, I reckon. “The female form I’m in affects me. My behavior changes accordingly. That’s why I try not to maintain one particular form for too long.”

 

Sif frowns, sits down next to me, and wipes my hair away from my face. “But if that is the case, why stay like this?”

 

“I don’t have a choice… Let’s leave it at that.” In a few days, she’ll realize why I can’t change back into my male form. My pregnancy will start to show in three to four days. My skin stings where Surtr burned me. He has been walking a thin line – keeping me conscious, but at the same time inflicting as much damage as he can. I’m not worried he’ll kill me though – he enjoys toying too much with me and I won’t put it past him to display his power over me once Thor gets here.

 

Sif looks depressed; being imprisoned must be hard on her. She’s used to living a life of freedom – that of a warrior. “Thor’s on his way,” I tell her, giving her hope. “And your friends accompany him. Fandral, Volstagg, and Hogun, they are on their way to free you. Getting here will take them four, maybe five days, but once they’re here, they’ll come for you.”

 

Sif nods, rather absentmindedly. I know she heard me, yet she seems lost in thought. “What’s on your mind?” I probably shouldn’t be asking that – setting myself up, but it’s just the two of us and she has no one else to confide in. “You won’t die in here… That’s not your fate.”

 

Sif shakes her head. “That’s not it… It’s strange, and I never thought I would feel like this, but I greatly worry about you. There is something you are not telling me…”

 

“I can’t… I would tell you if it were safe, but Surtr might be listening in and you know that.” Sif looks me in the eye and I have to avert my gaze.

 

“Loki, you are not giving up, are you? It feels like that to me… You cannot give up…”

 

“I’m not,” I whisper and turn my head toward her again. “But I might need you to fight a battle for me. I’ll grow weak, and once that happens, you’ll have to pull me through…” Sif frowns as she doesn’t know how to interpret my words – not yet anyway.

 

“I will not let you down… I will fight for you…”

 

“There was a time when you wouldn’t have said that… You would have let me rot away in here.”

 

Sif actually smiles. “But that time has passed and things have changed.” She makes herself as comfortable as she can, surrounded by cold stone and the wet earth beneath us. “I used to be in love with Thor…” she says unexpectedly.

 

Her admission surprises me. Why bring it up now?

 

“Did you know that?” Sif turns her head and makes eye-contact.

 

“I knew, yes…” There’s no use denying the truth.

 

“When he fell in love with Jane Foster, I consoled myself with the fact that she was mortal. She would die one day, and maybe then, Thor would turn to me for comfort.”

 

“Instead, I appeared shortly after her death… I ruined your plans, didn’t I?”

 

Sif wavers. “In a way,” she admits. “But I quickly realized that I stood no chance against you… I saw the way Thor looked at Jane – he adored her. But when he looks at you, his expression is different. He does not merely love you – it goes deeper. I cannot describe the expression in his eyes when he looks at you… But his hand trembles when he touches you and the longing on his face…”

 

Her words cause me to feel melancholy. I long for Thor as well.

 

“It did not make any sense until Thor revealed his love for you… When he pulled you close and kissed you – then I understood. You are two halves of one soul – separated at birth, but fate brought you back together again. You do not merely love each other – your souls are connected.” Sif nods. “And that is why I do not mind losing Thor to you. I never had him in the first place. Thor is happy – he is happy because he can finally admit his love for you.”

 

“Did you ever outgrow that crush?” I don’t mean to sound cruel and I send her that sentiment. Sif allows me to touch her mind and actually smiles.

 

“I did… But I fell in love with Fandral instead. He does not know about it either…”

 

“Fandral? Excellent choice, but why won’t you tell him? Don’t you think Fandral cares about you in turn?”

 

“I wanted to tell him,” Sif says, for some reason continuing to confide in me. “But then you changed into… this…and…I saw the look in Fandral’s eyes… He is in love with you.”

 

“Sif!” I laugh in spite of the burns and cuts on my face, which cause me pain. “Fandral isn’t in love with me! It’s a game we play!” Since Sif is confiding in me, I should return the favor. “Fandral thinks it helps me feel more at ease – more accepted as it were.”

 

Sif blinks in surprise. She doesn’t appear to believe me though as she shakes her head. “But I saw the way he looks at you!”

 

“Which can be faked!” I sigh at her stubbornness. “Trust me on this, tell him. He’ll surprise you… What do you have to lose? He’ll always be your friend…”

 

“I am not sure…”

 

“Tell him,” I urge her. “Tell him, Sif, if you get the chance. You never know if there will be another time to tell him. Remember, we can die… And it would be a terrible waste if you took that love into the grave with you instead of sharing it with Fandral.”

 

“I like you, Loki… I never had a friend – a female friend, that is…” Sif actually blushes slightly. “I feel like I can tell you my secrets…”

 

I feel flattered; I really do. “Maybe I should have shown myself in this form in the past… Maybe then we would have been friends.” But then again, maybe not.

 

Suddenly there’s commotion in the corridor. By Odin, I hope they won’t come for me again. I haven’t recovered yet. Sif grows quiet too and claims my hand, gently squeezing it. When the noise fades again, I sigh relieved. I’m awarded more time to recover then.

 

```

 

It’s impossible to tell night from day in here as it’s always dark in this prison. I also find it increasingly difficult to tell how much time has passed. Three, maybe four days? It might as well be five… I rest a hand on my abdomen, encountering a subtle growth. My pregnancy is starting to show. So far, everything is going according to plan, but Surtr might still ruin it. I don’t know how many more beatings I can endure.

 

Sif’s asleep, resting against me. Her hands caught mine when she went to sleep and she has a tight hold on them –refusing to release them. She did that before, and when I asked her why she did it, she said that she wanted to be sure she would wake up should they come for me. I let her – knowing it sets her mind at ease.

 

Loki…

 

Thor’s call comes unexpected and I need a moment to fully understand he’s reaching out to me. I refrained from reaching out to him for the simple reason that I don’t want to alert Surtr. So I kept our communication to a minimum. I hear you… I’m here. I sense Thor’s relief. It must be hard on him, not knowing if I’ll be able to answer his call. We’re fine… Sif’s asleep and I’m resting. I leave out the beatings and other forms of torture that amuse Surtr. Thor doesn’t need to know about that.

 

And the child?

 

Everything’s in order… I’m starting to show though… Sif will work out what’s happening, and then…I don’t know if she can keep her thoughts to herself should Surtr probe her mind.

 

You cannot hide it from her?

 

I could, but I need her support… Thor, the child’s well, but I’m growing weaker… I’ll need Sif to pull me though. I can’t keep her in the dark.

 

I reckon we will arrive at Muspelheim tomorrow…

 

Tomorrow…? How much time has passed since my abduction? I can’t really tell. It’s always dark in here.

 

Tomorrow, it will be a week.

 

One week – that means I’m halfway through the pregnancy. Damn it, I need out of this prison!

 

I am on my way… I know it’s hard to be patient, but you must fight, Loki… You must…

 

Skagg’s voice suddenly rips through the corridor and he isn’t alone – Skurge is with him, which can only mean one thing. Surtr is bored again and sent for me. Thor, I have to stop talking now… I’ll wait for you… but please, hurry. I cut him off the moment the door opens, as I don’t want Thor to realize what’s about to happen.

 

“Surtr wants to see you…” Skagg says.

 

Which is rather redundant, as I worked that out myself! I try to free my hand from Sif’s hold, hoping she’ll stay asleep – that way she won’t draw their attention. But my hope’s in vain. She opens her eyes and glares at our jailors.

 

“Not again!” she exclaims as she jumps to her feet.

 

I’m not that fast, but I manage to get to my feet as well and place my hands on her shoulders. “Sif, look at me! Listen to me!” It takes her a moment to draw her gaze away from Skagg, but then focuses on me. “Stay here where you’re safe. Don’t challenge them!”

 

“But… Loki!”

 

“That’s an order,” I whisper, gathering my strength. I use a small portion of my magic to cast a minor spell to hide my pregnancy from curious eyes – including Sif’s. She’ll find out eventually, but not yet. “Stay here and behave!” Sif wants to object again, but I shake my head. “For my sake, Sif… I’ll need your support when they return me to our prison…” As I had hoped, that little manipulation works and she gives in.

 

Skagg pushes me into the corridor and I don’t look at Sif when I leave our prison cell. I need to concentrate – I need to maintain the illusion I created even when the pain starts.

 

```

 

“When will Thor arrive? How many warriors accompany him? What are his plans? How will he carry out his attack?” With each question the fire that surrounds Surtr grows darker.

 

“I don’t know the answers to your questions,” I tell him, although saying the words will only cause me pain.

 

“You –do- know the answers, Loki!” Surtr exclaims enraged. “Skurge!”

 

Skurge hits as hard as Skagg does, but Skurge is more precise, choosing his target carefully. This time, he aims for my shoulder. After driving his fist into my shoulder, he twists my shoulder blade and pulls at my arm, effectively breaking the connecting bones. I don’t scream though – I don’t show any signs of pain and rein it all in. It annoys Surtr though, who tells Skurge to repeat the performance. This time, I bite down onto my lip in order to stop myself from screaming. That arm will be useless for quite some time.

 

“Break his fingers – slowly, one by one,” Surtr commands, relishing the fact that he has such power over me. “Make him scream…”

 

I won’t scream – no matter how much pain he’ll inflict on me. I’ll never scream…

 

“Loki, when will Thor arrive?” Surtr asks again.

 

And my answer is the same as always. “I don’t know…” Snap – The sound my thumb makes when Skurge shatters the bone is rather sickening, but I lock it out.

 

“Who accompanies him? How many are there? Loki, I know you communicate with Thor, reaching out to him with your mind. You know the answers, so tell me!”

 

“I don’t know…” He won’t break me – neither Surtr, nor Skurge will. Even though he just broke my ring finger. How odd, that didn’t hurt as much as my thumb did!

 

“Loki, what are Thor’s plans?”

 

“I’ll never tell you… Stop the charade…” And yes, now my middle finger is useless as well. I stare at Skurge, but don’t feel a thing. The pain is gone – somehow.

 

“How will Thor carry out his attack?”

 

Oh, how Surtr loves to play these games. He knows what my answer will be and loves setting me up. I have no choice but to play along though. I don’t answer at all, and as a result, Skurge breaks my two remaining fingers, rendering my right arm and hand quite useless.

 

“Loki, you –do- realize that you will not leave my fortress alive? I will kill you – in front of Thor… I will make him watch you die.”

 

“I thought you would do that. I can’t say I’m surprised.” All the energy I have left, I feed to my magic, praying the illusion won’t shatter. Once Surtr realizes my precarious condition he’ll use it against me.

 

“I grow tired of this,” Surtr announces and signals Skurge to end this interrogation. As a result, Skurge grabs my hair and drives me face first into the wall. I manage to lock out the pain, but know I will suffer the consequences later. “Take him back to his cell…”

 

I’m actually relieved to hear that, for it means our little ‘session’  has come to an end and I get a chance to recuperate. Skurge pushes me down the staircase once more, opens the door, and pushes me inside. I stumble, but Sif catches me and lowers me onto the floor. “They made a mess this time, I’m afraid,” I say, trying to appear light-hearted.

 

“What did they do? Except busting open your face?”

 

“Not much… Skurge took a particular interest in my right arm though, which is, as a result, rather useless, I’m afraid.” Sif examines my arm and hisses upon realizing the damage they did. “It doesn’t matter…”

 

“How can you say such a thing? Loki, stop absolving their punishment and blast them to hell! I know you can do that!”

 

I nod; she’s right. I can, but won’t. Maybe it’s time she learned the reason why. “I trust you, Sif… That’s why I’ll show you, but please… keep your mind tightly locked and your thoughts shielded. Surtr can’t find out, do you hear me?”


Sif is about to question me, but when I place her hand against my abdomen and remove the illusion, her eyes widen in shock. Her fingers move across my abdomen, and when she realizes the truth, she actually stops breathing for a moment. “This is the reason why…” I don’t need to spell it out to her – she’ll understand.

 

“You are…”

 

But Sif doesn’t speak the word – knows she can’t – knows Surtr will use that knowledge against me – will make me cooperate and maybe even betray my friends. Shielding my thoughts, I reach out to her and she lets me into her mind. I’m halfway through my pregnancy… In six or seven days I’ll give birth to Thor’s son… I can’t risk losing him, Sif. I can’t use my magic to destroy Surtr. I can’t even use my magic to take us to safety. It would damage the child… Do you understand why I must stay in this form? Why I don’t have a choice? Why we must endure and hope Thor will free us?

 

Sif looks at me in total shock, but to her credit, manages to compose herself again. Loki, I never knew this was even possible!

 

I’m fully female, Sif… like you can I conceive and give birth… I hide my pregnancy when I’m around Surtr by casting a minor spell, but even that drains me. I can’t maintain the illusion all the time, so I decided to trust you.

 

I will not let you down! Sif’s reply is quick and sincere. She means it. I will do my best to keep you safe, but Loki… you cannot keep this up… Surtr will find out, or target your lower body. When he does…will the child survive?

 

We’ll find out when that time comes… I can’t worry about that now, Sif.

 

Sif pulls me into her arms and I rest my head against her shoulder. I hate the fact that this female body is so weak. That’s the main reason why I prefer my male shape instead.

 

“You need to rest, Loki. I will watch over you…”

 

“Wake me when they return… I don’t want to be caught unaware.”

 

Sif nods. “I will stay awake.”

 

Before closing my eyes, I wonder about the expression on Sif’s face. I’m too tired to find out though and simply close my eyes and allow myself to drift off.

 

```

 

Loki?

 

At first I think it’s Sif, trying to wake me up because Skurge is back, but then I realize my mistake. It’s Thor.

 

Loki? Please… I sense your pain… What did Surtr do to you?

 

Nothing out of the ordinary – I can add a broken shoulder and shattered fingers to my list of injuries, but it’s nothing that will kill me.

 

I will kill him… I will…

 

I never heard such intensity to Thor’s thoughts before. He isn’t simply angry, he is furious like hell. Don’t let your anger control you, Thor… Keep a clear head.

 

Loki, we are close… We crossed into Muspelheim some time ago and will reach Surtr’s fortress within the hour… I do not have a plan though… What do you suggest we do?

 

You’re actually asking me how to free us? I can’t help but chuckle, which must look odd if Sif’s still watching me. Thor, I’m locked away in a dungeon. I don’t know the layout of the fortress.

 

Heimdall should…

 

Then ask him, Thor! Sometimes I wonder why I love him – it can’t be because of his brains!

 

Can you walk, Loki? How badly injured are you?

 

I need to watch my words now—no need to further Thor’s concern or to be more exact, his anger. I’ll manage – with a little help that is.

 

Tell Sif to be prepared… I do not know yet how we will get you out, but if need be, I will bring down the fortress itself!

 

Make sure I’m no longer in the dungeon when you do that, I remind him. The debris would crush us.

 

Noted… I am sorry, Loki, but I miss having you at my side.

 

You’ll work it out. Ask Heimdall –or Fandral. They’re both experienced in coming up with tactics that work!

 

I must leave you now… Loki, the next time we speak, it will be in person…

 

Go then… And do your worst… Thor chuckles into my mind and I absorb the happy sound. I need something to hold onto in this darkness. Now that Thor left, I open my eyes and look at Sif. She’s awake, but fighting fatigue.

 

“Did you talk to him? You smiled earlier.”

 

“I did… All will be well, Sif… It won’t be long now.”

 

“He had better hurry… Loki, you feel cold – icy cold, have you not noticed?”

 

I don’t feel any different. “Maybe it’s because I’m redirecting my energy… Don’t worry about me being cold though… I can cope with that…” I count on being part Frost Giant to pull me through.

 

“Thor had better hurry,” Sif says, concern coloring her voice. “You are running out of time.”

 

```

 

I had hoped to avoid another ‘session’ with Surtr, but Thor is taking longer than expected to arrive. Skurge pulls me to my feet and drags me along into the corridor. I make sure the illusion is in place so he won’t realize I’m pregnant.

 

“You too!” Skurge says and pulls Sif to her feet as well. “Surtr wants to see both of you!”

 

That doesn’t bode well at all. “Surtr doesn’t need her – she knows nothing.”

 

“Surtr will be the judge of that!”

 

Skurge gives me a particularly nasty push and I can’t help colliding with Sif. She catches me and glares at Skurge, who merely laughs. “Don’t challenge him, Sif… Don’t.”

 

“I will try not to,” she says, but I can tell her anger is close to the surface. She’s been reining in her wrath for days, and knowing Sif, it’ll come to the surface with a bang. “Loki, no matter what Surtr says, regardless of his threats, do not give in.”

 

She worked it out then. “That’s probably the main reason why they’re dragging you along – Surtr wants to use you in order to get to me.” Honestly, I don’t know what I’ll do should he threaten to kill Sif. My pregnancy causes me to be more emotional than I normally am.

 

Sif’s pace is firm and steadfast when we enter Surtr’s hall of fire. The flames are particularly bright and shine a fiery red. “Surtr isn’t having a good day…” This will get nasty.

 

“Ah, there you are!” Surtr’s form, cloaked in fire, floats toward us. “And still you remain in that weak form! Loki, I had expected you to fight harder!”

 

“Weak form?” Sif snorts and I elbow her in the side.

 

“Don’t,” I tell her. “Stay quiet.” I need to make sure she doesn’t anger him. I can tell Surtr is already on edge.

 

“Such a weak form,” Surtr says and raises his right hand.

 

His fingers, also made of fire, come to rest on my injured arm and burn the skin there. I don’t react though – I won’t give him the satisfaction of making me scream. “I imagine Asgardians might call you attractive in this form. Maybe it even makes them more inclined to look upon you kindly, but I know your true nature, Loki. You cannot be trusted. Your soul is black – like mine.”

 

Sif wants to react, but I glare at her, and in the end, she remains quiet. “I find this conversation rather boring…” I say in order to draw his attention away from her. His fire continues to burn my skin and I can actually smell the burned flesh.

 

“Then let us change the subject… Loki, I have learned that Thor is close… He is approaching my fortress and he is not alone. I need to know his plans…”

 

“I don’t know what his plans are,” I say and shrug. “I really don’t, but I doubt he’ll come up with anything intelligent. He’ll probably opt for marching in here and ending your existence, but that’s just a guess, mind you.” This time, it’s Sif who elbows me in the side. She’s right to chastise me. I told her not to challenge him, and now I’m doing exactly that.

 

“You –will- tell me, Loki… You see, I have realized you do not care about your own well-being, but what about her?” Surtr moves his fingers away from my arm and floats toward Sif instead. “She has such pretty eyes, do you not agree? I wonder how they will look after I burned them… Leaving her blind…”

 

I freeze, realizing Surtr finally figured out my weak spot. I can’t let him hurt Sif, but I really don’t know what Thor’s plans are! In that case, I might have to make something up. But Surtr might realize I’m lying… Damned dilemma! I watch as Surtr’s hand moves closer to Sif’s face, targeting her eyes. She trembles, but doesn’t plead for mercy. She’s like me in that aspect. “I’ll tell you. Just leave her alone.”

 

“Too late… My fire has grown hungry and demands satisfaction… Maybe I will burn your eyes instead… I do loath the way you always look at me, Loki… Arrogantly and calculating.”

 

“No!” Sif calls out, but Skurge restrains her and she can’t move.

 

Surtr now turns toward me and his hand hovers in front of my face – it’s level with my eyes. “Why should I tell you anything, when you’re going to blind me at any rate?”

 

“Very true… Maybe I am not really after information, Loki… Maybe I simply enjoy seeing you in pain…”

 

“I figured that out a long time ago.” I glare at him. I refuse to look away and won’t cower in fear or pain before him. Let him take my eyesight – as long as he doesn’t touch my unborn son I’ll survive. Surtr moves his hand closer still and then the pain starts. He presses his fingertips into my eyes and my body twists in agony. My lips remain quiet though. My world first changes into a deep red, before all color darkens and then turns black. Pain slices through me, but I hang on… I won’t give in… I’ll fight!

 

“What is this?”

 

Surtr sounds both surprised and pleased, and when I feel flames licking at my abdomen, I realize that the spell is no longer in effect. The shock of being burned broke my concentration and the illusion is gone.

 

“Do not touch him!” Sif calls out.

 

Suddenly chaos ensues. The hall trembles and battle cries echo through the air. I recognize Thor’s voice right away and wished I knew what was happening.

 

“Loki, quickly!”

 

Sif suddenly grabs my arm and starts to drag me along. I will my feet to move, and although I lack the strength to run, Sif manages to pull me along.

 

“We must leave this accursed place while our friends are battling the enemy. I will take you to safety, Loki!”

 

There isn’t much I can do at any rate – I’m blind and unable to cast any spells that would aid our saviors. At the moment I’m a burden!

 

“Loki… Look out!”

 

I stumble and Sif catches me… I move as fast as I can, and a few minutes later, crisp, cooling air caresses my face. We escaped the hall then. “Where are we?”

 

“Outside… There is a forest over there. The trees will shelter us while we search for a hiding place… Thor will find us – do not worry about that!”

 

She’s right, but I don’t waste any energy confirming it. Instead, I let her drag me through the forest. Branches brush against my body and I try to swipe them out of the way, but since I can’t see a damn thing, I’m at a distinct disadvantage!

 

“There is a cave over there! We will be safe there!”

 

Sif continues to drag me with her, but then comes to a halt, rather abruptly, so I bump into her. “Are we inside the cave?”

 

“Aye, we are…” She’s panting and now that we’re in safety, she pulls me down onto the earth next to her. “Please lean against me and rest. It will not be long before our friends will arrive.”

 

She sounds off and it causes me to frown. “Are you all right? You didn’t get injured, did you?” I hope she’s fine because I need her to be my eyes and if necessary, my hands.

 

“I am fine, Loki… I am fine…”

 

I must be mistaken, but was that really a sob? She isn’t crying, is he? I raise my good hand and search for her face. When my fingers touch her skin, I find I’m right; she –is- crying. “Why weep?”

 

“Loki, you are blind! You are blind because of me!”

 

“Nonsense… stop it…” I close my eyes and the pain lessens; so I keep them closed. “Surtr would have hurt me at any rate. He merely used you – he likes to play games, remember?”

 

“How can you remain this calm? If he had done that to me I would be raving mad!”

 

“Sif, I lack the energy to get angry… I need to rest though… That run tired me.”

 

“Of course,” she says quickly. “Wait… use this…” She helps me lie down and pushes something soft beneath my head. “It is just my cloak… I am sorry that I do not have any fabric to cover you with.”

 

“I’m fine, Sif… I just need to rest…”

“We will wait for Thor to get here and then we will go home… Everything will be fine, Loki…”

 

I listen to her voice because it’s a beacon in my dark world. Yes, Thor will come for me – for me and his son. I merely need to hold on a little longer.

 

TBC

 

Part 4

 

As I failed to come up with a better plan, we follow my original idea and simply march into Surtr’s hall. We don’t encounter any notable resistance; the few minions that try to stop us are easily dealt with. To my right, Fandral, Volstagg, and Hogun charge forward. To my left, Heimdall, riding Sleipnir races toward Skurge. Skagg is already on the run and won’t pose a problem.

 

My heart misses a beat at seeing Loki stand protectively next to Sif. Surtr’s arm is extended and his fingers suddenly dive into Loki’s eyes. Loki doesn’t scream, but through our mental connection, I sense the pain that rips through him. An insane rage takes hold of me as I can only think of avenging my lover. How dare he touch Loki? How dare he hurt him? Loki locked his pain away again, probably because he doesn’t want to distract me, but I wish he would share his anguish with me. That way I feel connected to him and not like I utterly failed him!

 

I charge forward, cast Mjolnir into the fire demon’s direction, and it hits Surtr in the back. The fire demon crumbles and then turns around, flames radiating from his form. I will end his miserable existence for once and for all! Keeping one eye on Loki, Sif reaches for him and pulls him away from danger. Surtr now focuses on me and that enables Sif to pull Loki along so they can flee the hall. I want to reach out to Loki to assure him that his misery has come to an end, but I must deal with Surtr first.

 

Mjolnir returns to me, and I run toward Surtr, ready to tear him apart. I want him to hurt like he hurt Loki, but I’m not even sure Surtr feels pain. Heimdall calls my name, and seeing him raise his sword, I realize his intensions. I drive Surtr toward the guardian, who prepares to strike the fatal blow. Surtr knows what I am doing, but has no way out, since Skagg fled and Volstagg subdued Skurge. Surtr is on his own and he knows it.

 

“You will pay for this with your life, Fire Demon… No mercy for you this time!” I continue to corner him, and he has no way out, except facing Heimdall. Heimdall takes aim, strikes the blow, and slices through the Fire Demon, effectively ending Surtr’s existence. “No one hurts Loki!” I call out, for some insane reason needing to get that point across.

 

Surtr died too quickly and painlessly though as far as I am concerned. I wanted him to suffer and now he died without any suffering at all! I want to hurt someone – I need to release this rage that courses through me, and it sets me off on a rampage.

 

I swing Mjolnir at everything within reach. Walls starts to crumble, Surtr’s minions try to flee, but I catch them and easily defeat them. The way Loki looked, haunts me – his glazed over eyes – the green that had vanished – only white had remained. Curse Surtr for taking away Loki’s eyesight! I want to kill the Fire Demon again – and again – and again!

 

“Thor, control yourself! Thor, calm down!”

 

Fandral tries to restrain me, but I shake him off. The rage I am experiencing needs a way out and I can’t stop yet.

 

“Thor! You are King of Asgard, behave accordingly!”

 

Heimdall tries his best, but I ignore him and fling Mjolnir into a wall, bringing it down and slamming the debris out of my way, using my trusted hammer. Suddenly however, another voice reaches me – and it doesn’t reach my ears – it reaches my mind.

 

Thor, Heimdall is right. You need to calm down. Stop bringing down the hall.

 

At first, I think it is Loki, but then I realize I’m wrong. It is not Loki, but the thoughts feels so awfully familiar that I spin around to find out who is addressing me. Stunned, I look at Sleipnir, who is standing right in front of me. The familiar green eyes look pleadingly at me, and when I raise an arm to touch the stallion’s head, something odd happens. Sleipnir’s form grows dim and then reshapes itself. Looking at my friends, I can tell I am not the only one left stunned. Fandral stares at Sleipnir as well and Heimdall is moving closer, curiosity gleaming in his golden eyes.

 

It is not the Sleipnir that I have come to know that now stands in front of me. It is a young man – his shoulder-length hair as black as coal and his eyes as green as Loki’s. His features are partly Loki’s too – my lover’s inheritance shows clearly. “I do not understand…” Where did Sleipnir go and who is this person standing in front of me?

 

“I am Sleipnir,” the young man says, his voice smooth and golden. “I never showed myself in this form before… This is the first time ever…and probably the last time too.”

 

I can’t stop staring at him- I never imagined such a thing possible.

 

“Well, that little trick helped… Seeing the berserker rage left Thor,” Fandral quips and circles Sleipnir. “Thor is not the only one speechless though…”

 

“You talk an awful lot for being speechless,” Sleipnir remarks calmly and returns Fandral’s inquisitive look.

 

Fandral is right though- Sleipnir’s transformation distracted me and my rage has been subdued. Instead, I am curious. Sleipnir greatly resembles Loki, but there are dissimilarities as well – small differences though. One discrepancy that shows clearly is that Sleipnir isn’t as fond of green as Loki is, as he is dressed in whites and grays. “You are a shape shifter too.”

 

“Not exactly – I do not have that many choices… I can either occupy this form or the one you know me in, that of a horse…”

 

I should have known! Damn it, I should have known that Loki’s legacy would show somehow!

 

“Thor? Care to explain this to us?” Volstagg remarks. “You seem to know what is happening.”

 

“I will explain everything to you, but we need to leave this accursed place and find Loki!” Loki must be my first priority, but I am not letting Sleipnir out of sight either. “Sleipnir, stay like this… I might need you later.” It is a lame excuse, but I don’t want him to change back into his former form.

 

Sleipnir hesitates, but then nods. “Just this once though.”

 

I feel accomplished now that I convinced Sleipnir not to change back. “We need to find Loki, and Sif, of course. Did anyone see what direction they took off in?”

 

Hogun points towards the forest, which is visible through the gigantic hole in the wall. “That direction.”

 

I center myself; I need to locate Loki so I can take care of him and our unborn child. I try to suppress the fact that Loki is blind now – I need to take this one step at a time. How do I find Loki? Hogun already leads the way and clears some debris out of the way as he heads outside. I follow him and attempt to clear my mind. It takes time though as I feel restless and worried.

 

Loki, where are you? I am searching for you, but you must lead the way. Tell me where you are so I can come for you. Loki doesn’t answer though and I reach out again, imploring him to reply. Loki, please do not shut me out. Tell me where I can find you. But Loki remains quiet.

 

“Is something wrong? Fandral asks, upon falling in step next to me.

 

“Loki is not answering my call… Hopefully he is merely asleep.” I refuse to think about any other reason why he isn’t answering.

 

“The sun is setting and makes it impossible for me to find any tracks that will lead us to Loki,” Hogun remarks. “We might have to postpone our search until the sun rises again.”

 

Which isn’t acceptable. I can’t bear the thought of Loki being out there – blind and injured when I am so close to him. “That is not an option,” I tell Hogun. “I need to find him – now.” I step between the trees and feel irked, knowing Loki is somewhere close and yet out of reach./Loki, if you can hear me, answer me. I need your help to find you! The fact that he still doesn’t reply increases my fear.

 

“Maybe I can help…?” Sleipnir soundlessly walks up to me and gives me a shy look. “I have always been able to sense him…”

 

I welcome his help and nod repeatedly. “If you can help, please do. We need to find him. I worry about him…” The scene in which Surtr pierced Loki’s eyes with his fingertips continues to haunt me.

 

“I will try…” Sleipnir takes a step away from me and closes his eyes. He cocks his head, as if he is listening to a voice only he can hear.

 

Please find him… I don’t dare to think about the possibility of Sleipnir not finding Loki. He is eight days into his pregnancy, and even if we find him today, we won’t reach home in time for him to give birth there. Our son will be born on the road and those are not the circumstances I wished for. I wanted him at home instead where healers could aid him when giving birth. I look toward Sleipnir with hope and pray he will be successful. Suddenly, Sleipnir starts walking and I follow him as quickly as I can. “Do you know where he is?”

 

Sleipnir nods. “I found him… He is rather close and the reason why he did not answer you is that he is asleep… He is exhausted and needs to rest. That is why he sealed off his mind.”

 

“He is alive then…” I sigh in relief. I had assumed the worst, but should have hoped for the best. “Take us to him…”

 

“We are on our way…” Sleipnir moves quietly.

 

He hardly makes any sound at all and he reminds me of a specter in some ways. He probably lived his life trying hard not to gain anyone’s attention, afraid they might find out the truth about him; that he –is- Loki’s son and a shape shifter because of that- even though limited in his ways.

 

Sleipnir must have sensed my gaze upon him because he gives me a quick look before breaking eye-contact again. He reminds me of Loki in many ways, and again, I realize my father made his share of mistakes in the past. Sleipnir shouldn’t have been forced to lead a single-sided existence. I wonder if my father knows the truth though; maybe Sleipnir felt it was safest Odin didn’t know about it.

 

“He is inside that cave – still asleep, and maybe you should not wake him just yet. He needs the rest.”

 

“I will do as you say,” I tell Sleipnir – I want him to feel like his opinion matters to me. Maybe I can make amends in my father’s stead. “Lead on,” I say, and beckon him to enter first. Loki might be my lover, but Sleipnir is his son and I dare say they never met in this way before. Sleipnir wavers and I understand why. This is new territory for him as well. The fact that Loki is asleep though seems to convince him and he steps into the cave. I promptly follow him, and next to me, Fandral enters as well.

 

The sight that greets me makes my heart ache. Loki’s on the damp earth, deeply asleep in a fetal position. I recognize Sif’s cloak, which serves as a pillow and I give her a grateful look upon seeing her hand rest protectively against Loki’s back. For one moment, I feel paralyzed, but then I press forward. I need to touch him – need to know he is alive.

 

“Thor… I thank the gods that you are here. Loki needs you… he will not admit it, but he is not well.”

 

Sif gets to her feet so I can move closer to Loki. I sit down next to Loki and cringe at seeing the amount of damage Surtr did. Cuts, bruises, and burns mar Loki’s face and I smell burned flesh on him. The long, black hair does little to hide the large number of burns which Surtr inflicted on him. My gaze moves lower and I gasp at seeing his expanding abdomen. Until now, I hadn’t envisioned what Loki would look like, carrying our child. A fierce need to protect him overwhelms me and I reach out for him, wanting to gather his hands between mine. I halt though upon seeing how crooked his fingers are, and my anger flares back up. Surtr enjoyed inflicting pain on Loki.

 

“Thor, be careful, he is wounded…” Sif, who now stands next to Fandral, sounds worried, and rightly so. “Surtr broke his shoulder, arm and fingers… For no particular reason, besides wanting to see him hurt.”

 

“I wish we could kill him again.” Maybe I will hunt down Skurge and Skagg after Loki gave birth. My need to avenge Loki is strong and one day I will give in to it.

 

“Do not think that loudly,” Sleipnir whispers from the entrance of the cave. “You will cause him to wake up.”

 

I can’t help being worried, but I try to calm down my mind. Carefully, I gather Loki in my arms and pull him against me. “You are safe now… Sleep and rest… I will watch over you.” I press a kiss onto his brow and swallow hard, fully realizing how close I came to losing him.

 

```

 

Volstagg and Hogun build a fire and then busy themselves keeping it alive. Heimdall offered to hunt and should return within the next hour. Sif and Fandral are talking softly, and if I am not mistaken, he is holding her hand. Everything appears peaceful, but it is nothing but an illusion. I am reminded of that when Loki shifts in my arms and moans pitifully.

 

Sleipnir sits close enough to Loki to be able to see his facial expression, but still too far away for my personal taste. Loki is his mother… An odd thought, yes, but that is the way it is. I never realized loving a shape shifter would be so complicated!

 

“He will be fine,” I tell Sleipnir, mostly because I need to hear the reassurance myself. “When he wakes, we will leave for home… He needs to be in familiar and comfortable surroundings.”

 

“You will not make it back in time,” Sleipnir says in that liquid voice of his. “Loki will give birth during the next few days.”

 

“I know that,” I acknowledge with a sigh. I shift Loki closer to me when he starts to move away. “Sleep, sleep and rest,” I whisper at him. “Do not wake just yet.”

 

“Thor, I do not mean to impose, but you said you would tell us about Sleipnir,” Fandral says.

 

Sif’s hand still rests in his and they are sitting rather close to each other. I never noticed the attraction between them, but it is obvious now. “I did, but I do not feel comfortable telling you… Maybe Sleipnir can be swayed to entrust his history to you?” It is not my place to tell my friends what happened in the past. Sleipnir looks like he wants to leap to his feet and run out of the cave, and again, the way he reacts reminds me of Loki. My father wronged both of them. “Maybe it would do you good to tell them? You carried this secret with you for too long.”

 

Sleipnir looks at Loki, then at me, and has a hard time making up his mind.

 

Heimdall chooses that moment to return and hands the rabbits he caught to Volstagg so he can prepare them. Heimdall sits down and quietly looks at Sleipnir. “Like my friends, I would like to hear your story. We will not mock you… Do not be afraid – you have our greatest respect. You saved All father’s life more than once in battle…”

 

Heimdall’s words appear to set Sleipnir’s mind at ease, but it still takes time for him to start to talk. But when he does, his voice sounds remarkably steady.

 

“I still remember what it was like – opening my eyes for the first time and looking upon the sun – the clouds, and to feel the earth beneath me. I felt safe and protected because my mother was close to me. She licked me clean, and once I managed to stand on my feet, I felt like I could conquer the world.

 

Something odd happened then – my mother changed – her form changed, and instead of seeing the mare who give birth to me, I looked upon someone else. But one thing had –not- changed – the love in those green eyes still warmed me.”

 

Fandral suddenly gasps and swallows convulsively, but I gesture for him to remain quiet though – this is Sleipnir’s tale and he should be allowed to tell it in his own pace.

 

“Loki looked at me with such love in his eyes that I ran towards him. He wrapped his arms around me and held me close. That was when I realized that I wanted to be like him – I wanted to assume a form similar to his, and I was about to try if I could, when Odin appeared…” Sleipnir’s tone changes and I hear the agony in his words, when he continues. “He told Loki to go home and to tell no one what had transpired. Loki did not want to leave, but could not rebel against Odin either, so he left – against his will – leaving me behind. Odin was rather pleased, realizing I would make a fine war horse and he decided I was to be his from that moment on. He took me to the stables where the stable hands looked after me.

 

In my heart, I continued to long for Loki though… I still mourn the fact that we never had a chance to get to know each other – to explore the relationship that should have bound us. I know he tried to talk to Odin, trying to sway his mind so he was allowed to visit with me, but each time he pleaded, he was denied.

 

The few times we met I could not reach out to him, and after time passed by I accepted my fate – much like Loki did. I never attempted to change my form again – why should I? My fate had been decided for me – I was Odin’s trusted steed, and as you pointed out, Heimdall, I always did my best to keep him safe… Though a part of me hates him – hates him for denying me Loki’s affection.”

 

Sleipnir grows quiet, and when I look at my friends, I find that his tale is affecting them. Fandral looks sad and tears swim in his eyes. Volstagg stares at Sleipnir in shock and Sif’s hands turned into fists. Hogun seems unmoved, but I know him and he too understands Sleipnir’s loss. Heimdall’s golden eyes shimmer with an unknown emotion and Sleipnir looks away from them and unintentionally toward me.

 

“I feel greatly sorry for your loss. If I can make amends – no matter how small, please let me know.” Sleipnir however doesn’t reply – he doesn’t even look at me. He is looking at Loki instead, and when I lower my gaze and focus on my lover, I find that Loki is awake. His eyes –entirely white now – stare blindly ahead, but his good hand twitches in mine and I know he is fighting his tears. You are allowed to cry. No one will hold that against you… Fandral looks like he is about to shed tears as well.

 

I can’t cry – I cried for Sleipnir a long time ago…

 

I know it is not the truth – Loki is desperately fighting back his tears. “You never expected for any of this to happen – did you?” I must find a way to make him open up. No matter how hurt he is, he keeps it all inside, thinking he can’t give into his pain for fear it will diminish his worth in my eyes. “You are a fool, Loki… I will stand by your side no matter what.”

 

Sleipnir cautiously moves toward us and kneels next to Loki. His hand hovers over his mother’s form, but he is afraid to touch. “I never thought we would ever get the chance to talk like this…”

 

Loki trembles against me, and although I do not want to add to his anguish, I must. “Sleipnir, hold him…” Loki tries to grab hold of my wrist, but fails as he feels disorientated. “The two of you need to talk –and connect…”

 

Thor, no… Don’t do this! You can’t do this!

 

I ignore Loki’s plea and move him into Sleipnir’s arms. Sleipnir looks just as terrified as Loki does, but I know I am doing the right thing. They need to do this, even if they don’t want to.

 

Sleipnir gently gathers Loki in his arms and holds him like he never wants to let go again – and he won’t – at least emotionally he won’t. “I had lost hope that this day would come… I love you… I know that you did not want to leave me behind. I know that you fought Odin over me and I do not blame you for anything – mother.”

 

The tears that gathered in Loki’s eyes now flow down his face, but I refrain from wiping them away. It is actually a good thing that Loki is crying; it means he is finally facing and admitting his feelings for Sleipnir. Damn it, father, why did you have to separate them?

 

I move away from them, giving them their privacy, and sit down next to Heimdall instead. I keep a close eye on Loki and Sleipnir, but they are at that stage where tears speak louder than words. Crying will help them heal.

 

“I did not know about this,” Heimdall admits in a shocked tone. “Odin kept this from me…”

 

“My father has many secrets – unfortunately! I am not concerned about the past though – no, what worries me is their future. I cannot allow this charade to continue. Sleipnir is so much more than a horse and I will not allow my father to carry on in this way.”

 

“Odin will not be able to do so,” Fandral says. “Not with us knowing the truth. Look at them, no one will be able to keep them apart.”

 

Fandral is right; Loki and Sleipnir are finally bonding; it is something that should have happened after Loki gave birth to Sleipnir. Sleipnir would have realized that he wasn’t merely a foal – that there was another side to him, which he needed to explore. The one person who could have helped him with that had been ordered to leave though. Does Odin know how cruel he acted back then and how much it scarred Loki and Sleipnir?

 

Sleipnir presses a trembling kiss onto Loki’s brow and then looks toward me. “He needs you too…”

 

I join them and sit down behind Loki. I pull him into my arms and hold him. Now that they were able to bond, it is time for me to direct my attention to the matter at hand – Loki’s injuries and his pregnancy. “We will not make it back home in time,” I start. “You are too far along….”

 

“I know that, Thor… I’m not stupid!”

 

Hearing him actually sneer at me makes me feel good. There is still some fight left in Loki and I love him for that. On impulse, I kiss his lips. “I love you so much.”

 

“Even now I’m blind?” Loki says, continuing in that sneering tone.

 

“We will find a way to restore your eyesight…” I am convinced there is a way. I want him to see Sleipnir – I want him to see our son once he is born. “Loki, I need your advice. What do I do?”

 

“Those brain cells still refuse to work then!”

 

I chuckle, but make sure I don’t jostle him about. Loki might act brave, but he is still in much pain. “Indulge me, oh smart one.”

 

“Thor, don’t worry too much. I gave birth before and back then I was alone. This time I have you to help me through the ordeal… and I’ve got Sleipnir…”

 

“And our friends,” I remind him. “Fandral, Volstagg, Hogun, and even Heimdall insisted on coming along to rescue you. You are hardly alone.”

 

“And I am here,” Sif says, as she moves closer to Loki. “Not much of a help, but you can count on me, Loki.”

 

Loki’s features soften at hearing her voice. “Sif, thank you for your support. I might not always show it, but I appreciate it.”

 

“You are welcome, my friend,” Sif says in a remarkably gentle voice.

 

Good, those two made their peace then – even though I wished the circumstances that helped them bond hadn’t been that grave. “Loki, I still do not know what to do. Can I move you? Should I? Should we find a better shelter? You cannot give birth in this cave!” It’s dirty, cold, and damp in here.

 

“Thor,” Loki says and raises his hand, obviously wanting to touch my face. I guide his hand closer, and when Loki caresses my skin, I momentarily close my eyes to savor the moment. “Stop worrying that much…”

 

“I cannot help it… I love you…”

 

Loki sighs, closes his useless eyes, and says, “You might consider asking our friends to scout ahead and find out about our surroundings. Maybe there’s a settlement close by, some deserted dwelling, or a cabin where we can take refuge.”

 

“Of course!” I mentally slap myself. “I am afraid you are right about my brain cells.” Loki smiles and I am grateful he is still able to smile at one of my jokes. “Would you mind scouting ahead and find out if there is a more suitable shelter close?”

 

Except for Sleipnir, everyone gets to their feet and nods. One by one, they leave the cave, allowing Loki, Sleipnir, and me a moment of privacy. “Loki, be honest with me; in how much pain are you? I can take the answer from your mind, but I would rather not.” Loki turns his head away from me, keeps his eyes closed, and concentrates on keeping his breathing slow and controlled. He is struggling with himself, trying to decide whether to trick me or to be honest with me. “I am asking you because I love you and I want to look after you. Loki, you carry my son and I want to take care of you both.” I hope that will help him make up his mind. I can actually sense Loki’s surrender in body and mind. He sighs, his body seems to go limp, and in his mind, calm settles down.

 

“Honestly? Surtr did quite some damage I’m afraid… My shoulder hurts and my arm and fingers too… He burned a large part of my arm and then… My eyes… They don’t exactly hurt, but they burn.”

 

“Thank you for telling me.” I press a kiss onto his brow. “And how about the rest?” He’s still keeping back and he knows I know it. I won’t force him to tell me, but I hope he will do so out of his own accord.

 

“I feel weak, all right? No need to rub it in!”

 

“That is not why I asked and you know it.” I caress his face and my fingertips gently brush against his lips. “When will you give birth?”

 

Loki sighs deeply. “My guess is in two days… I’m not sure… but that should come close.”

 

“In two days we will have found suitable shelter and we might even have come up with a plan. Loki, I know nothing about child birth. I do not know how to aid you.”

 

“And don’t look to Sif for help – she doesn’t know about it either!” Loki comments.

 

“Neither do I,” Sleipnir admits in a soft voice. “But you will pull through…”

 

I hear the pleading tone to his voice and hope Loki caught it too.

 

“Of course I will… But I’ll be quite useless for some time… I won’t be able to help, Thor – or do much in general.”

 

I can tell that it annoys him that he is helpless. “You do not need to do anything except to give birth to our son. Leave the rest up to me.”

 

Loki is quiet for some time, but then mumbles, “It’s nice to have someone at my side this time…”

 

“You are not alone,” I tell him as I want him to know things have changed. “You can let yourself fall; I promise to catch you.” Loki might not show it, but I sense his relief and gratitude.

 

“Not being able to see is annoying,” he says out of the blue.

 

I understand why he said it – he wants me to know that he doesn’t want to be a burden. I need to set him straight before these thoughts grow stronger. “You will see again. The healers will find a way, and in the meantime, I will be your eyes.” Sleipnir moves suddenly, and when I look at him, he is frowning at Loki. “What is on your mind, Sleipnir?”

 

“Loki… I want to try something… Will you let me?”

 

“Always… I trust you…my son…”

 

Loki’s voice trembles when speaking those last two words. The tremors that shake his body are getting worse, and I can only hope that our friends are successful in hunting down appropriate shelter. Loki suddenly tenses in my arms, and alarmed, I tighten my hold on him. Loki opens his eyes, blinks, and then his eyes remain open.

 

“I can… see… Well… I see… myself… and it’s not a pretty sight…”

 

Suddenly I understand what is happening. Sleipnir found a way to link his eyesight to Loki’s mind. Sleipnir changes the direction of his gaze and looks at me instead. I smile at him, and in my arms, Loki starts to smile as well. “I should have thought of it myself! And Loki, no more condescending remarks about my intelligence,” I add when I realize he is about to make another, not so flattering comment!

 

“Thor, do you think it’ll also work with you? I want to see Sleipnir. I want to know my son’s face…” Loki’s voice is tiny and uncertain.

 

“Why do we not find out?” I reach out to him and feel Sleipnir retreat at the same time. It takes us a moment to make the connection, but when Loki gasps in surprise, I know it is working. I look at Sleipnir, giving Loki all the time he needs to take in his son’s appearance; his face, eyes, mouth, everything.

 

Loki raises a shaky hand and Sleipnir catches it within his. “I never knew… I’m so sorry, Sleipnir… I should have tried harder…”

 

“Your hands were bound, Loki. I know that. I do not blame you… I love you…” Loki manages to pull his son’s hands closer to his chest and Sleipnir reacts at once, moving along.

 

“You’re beautiful, Sleipnir – inside and out… I never thought I would ever get this chance… Thor, thank you for giving me this.”

 

I squeeze his hand gently and continue to look at Sleipnir, knowing it is what Loki wants – and needs -- and I gladly give it to him.

 

TBC

 

Part 5

 

I let the big oaf carry me, as he seems intent on making me rest. I offered to walk, but Thor made it quite clear that he won’t allow it. Secretly, I’m relieved that I don’t need to walk the distance as I don’t feel up to it.

 

“Only one more hour and then you can rest,” Thor whispers.

 

Heimdall located a deserted cabin one day’s trip away from the cave and he’s leading us there now. Volstagg and Heimdall walk up front and will deal with any problems, should they arise. Sif and Fandral walk behind us and make sure no one follows us. Hogun must be somewhere, probably making sure we’re safe in his own way. Sleipnir chose to stay in his Asgardian form, for which I feel grateful. As Thor’s eyesight remains linked to my mind, I can actually see my son and watch him. “I’m fine,” I reply belatedly. Thor’s comment hardly registered with me as I’m busy studying Sleipnir’s features.

 

My son… My son has returned to me after all these years. I fought Odin over him… I tried to make my father see that I loved Sleipnir and that I wanted to be able to talk to him, but Odin forbade it. He never gave me a reason why and I never asked. Back then, I would never have dared to openly rebel against Odin.

 

No, you are not  fine, but you are happy…

 

Thor’s little remark brings a smile to my face. I never thought I would ever be able to bond with Sleipnir – this is the greatest gift possible… And I should thank you for accepting him in our midst. You didn’t have to do that.

 

How can I deny him? I like him, Loki… He is rather remarkable… And I do regret my father’s past actions.

 

You didn’t keep Sleipnir and me apart – do not put that burden onto your shoulders. It was Odin who separated us – not you. Thor moves me closer to his chest and I rest my head against his shoulder. I don’t want to close my eyes and go to sleep, but I’m tired – so damn tired! Giving birth will utterly exhaust me…

 

You are –not- a burden, Loki, and that is something –you- need to keep in mind! It is an honor to take care of you… You are my lover – my partner in every sense of the word. You have every reason to feel tired. Go to sleep. You do not need to stay awake. Give your body a chance to recuperate…

 

I love you… When I took a risk and accepted Thor as my lover, I knew about his gentle disposition, but I never fully realized his caring nature. I never expected his love and dedication to be so complete.

 

Thank you… I will look upon that as a compliment. And now stop thinking, Loki… and start sleeping.

 

Bully… But I could never be angry with him – he looks out for me because he loves me…

 

```

 

What are you doing? I wake up because I’m being moved about, and the pain in my shoulder, which had grown dull, flares back to full strength.

 

Go back to sleep if you can. We arrived at the cabin and I am removing your clothes so I can put you to bed. You will be more comfortable that way.

 

And that way, you can also examine my injuries… I’m not stupid.

 

I would never make the mistake to call you that, but Loki, you do not need to be awake. Will you go back to sleep now? I promise to take good care of you… Our friends are keeping watch and Sleipnir sits next to your bed. All is well.

 

I trust you – that’s the only reason why I’ll let you go away with it.

 

And because you are exhausted. Loki, rest while you still can… It will not be long before our son will be born and you will need your strength then.

 

Thor’s right of course, which I why I stop objecting. I let him undress me and maneuver me about in that gentle way of his. Once I’m lying down, I wrap my good arm around my waist and press deeper into the comfort of the bed. I’m relieved they found a deserted house… I wouldn’t have liked to give birth in that dark cave, but even that would have been better than having my son under the plain sky.

 

Stop worrying, Loki… Go back to sleep…

 

Thor’s thoughts circle mine in a soothing motion that’s probably meant to help me fall asleep. To my shame I must admit that it’s working and Sleipnir’s presence is also making me relax. I feel blessed for having them in my life.

 

```

 

The next time I wake up, it’s because Thor’s moving me about again. I’m in less pain than before, and open my eyes, forgetting that I’m blind these days.

 

“Loki… You should eat some soup… Volstagg made it. He claims it will help you regain your strength.”

 

I recognize Sleipnir’s mind touching mine and I gladly accept his offer to use his eyesight in order to see. A moment later, Thor appears in my view and he’s trying to spoon some of the soup into my mouth. “Let me do that…” He’ll create a mess if I let him. I wrap my good hand around the bowl and drink slowly. It tastes good – I must give Volstagg that. “Where are we?”

 

“Heimdall found this deserted cabin yesterday…It is larger than it looks and surprisingly well-equipped. We will stay here for now. We will not head home yet… After our son is born, you will need to rest and you can do that here.”

 

I must admit I like that sound of that. Getting a few days of rest sounds good to me. “Where’s the rest?”

 

“They keep to the kitchen and living area as they do not wish for you to feel crowded. This is the upstairs bedroom and should provide us with some privacy.”

 

I emptied the bowl and hand it back to Thor. Concentrating on what my body is trying to tell me, I know it won’t be long until our son will be born. A few hours at maximum.

 

“Loki, what do I need to do so the delivery will go easier? Is there anything I can do? Anything at all?”

 

Thor sounds distressed and his thoughts tells me he’s more worried than he wants me to know. “Nature has a way to do things her way, Thor… Maybe get some water… some clean cloth… I don’t think you can actually –do- anything.”

 

“I wish one of the healers were here… They would know what to do, how to help you.”

 

Thor’s fingers curl around my good hand and I blush, seeing the loving expression on my own face through Sleipnir’s eyes. It’s rather obvious how much I love Thor. Sleipnir chuckles and seems amused. I let him – glad he feels a part of our family.

 

Sleipnir quickly sobers though and says, “Thor is right. We need someone who knows what to do…”

 

“Volstagg has five children,” Thor muses, “But he was not present at a single birth. Can you imagine that? You are about to become a father and you are not close to your wife?”

 

“Maybe he was scared,” I suggest. “Volstagg wouldn’t be the first male to flee such a scene.”

 

“I will not flee,” Thor states determinedly. “I will stay and support you any way I can. I do wish though that we had someone in our midst who knows how to aid you… I feel so helpless.”

 

“I’m sure everything will be fine. Thor, worrying doesn’t help.” I don’t want to consider the possibility of something going wrong. Although I know anything can happen, I refuse envision it, for then it might become true.

 

“Maybe you would like my help then?”

 

I blink at hearing that voice, and when Sleipnir focuses his gaze on the speaker, an immense sense of relief flows through me. “Fay…” I have never been happier to see her.

 

“Not quite… Fay does not know much about delivering children…” Dressed in a richly embroiled red dress, she walks toward me. The flaming red hair that descends down her back curls luxuriously. “But the Great Mother does…” She sits down on the side of my bed and inquisitively looks at me. “You do like to complicate matters…”

 

“Loki, who is she?” Sleipnir whispers and his voice carries a hint of fear.

 

“She’s a friend, Sleipnir… A very good friend…” I already feel more confident now that she’s at my side. “Your timing could have been better though… You could have stopped Surtr from blinding me.”

 

“Maybe,” she replies, “maybe not… Maybe we can only really see what is important when we cannot use our eyes… Maybe we need to see ourselves through the eyes of others in order to truly understand.”

 

She always tended to be cryptic and I ignore her answer. “No matter what, I’m glad you’re here… That means at least one person knows what needs to be done!”

 

She shakes her head though. “You know what to do, Loki… You have been given a great gift – you are able to create life and nurture it. When we first met, you thought of yourself as evil. Look at Sleipnir though – can something as pure and innocent actually be the product of evil?”

 

I roll my eyes at her remark. “I merely gave birth to Sleipnir. I had no hand in how he turned out.”

 

“You told yourself that so many times that you believe it… Maybe time will show you how wrong you are, but that discussion must wait. Your time is drawing near, Loki… Your son is rather eager to be born…”

 

She’s right… For the last few minutes I felt him moving about.

 

“Thor, ask your friends to fetch buckets with water… Tell them to boil the water and then to let it cool. We will need it in order to wash the baby… And clean up Loki. Also, tell them to gather all sorts of fabric – towels if possible.”

 

Thor stares at her, and I sense the relief in his mind. He is also glad she’s here.

 

“I will be right back,” Thor says and presses a kiss onto my brow. “Do not start without me.”

 

His comment actually makes me smile and helps lock out the pain, which is building in my body. It’s a familiar pain; I felt like that when I gave birth to Sleipnir. Thor hurries out of the room to do her bidding. Thankfully Sleipnir maintains the link that enables me to use his eyesight, and since he’s staring at Fay, I stare at her too. I can’t deny feeling scared; this situation differs from what I went through with Sleipnir. There’s so much more at stake here – not just bringing Thor’s son into this world, but also Asgard’s next king.

 

“There will be pain, Loki,” Fay says as she rests her hand on my brow. “And you must endure that pain, but I will also make you a promise; that you and your son will come to no harm… It will be a quick delivery – that is my gift to you.”

 

“Thank you,” I manage just before the first contraction sets in. I cling to her words and grab Sleipnir’s hand, ignoring the pain that spreads through my arm because of my broken fingers. Pain is something I can deal with, as long as I have someone at my side to pull me through.

 

```

 

Fay stays true to her word – there’s pain, as I knew there would be, but the delivery doesn’t last long and Thor lending me his strength helps me endure. When our son fills his lungs with air and cries out, I collapse back onto the bed and close my eyes. I need a moment to recover – just one moment.

 

“You did well,” Fay says as she cradles the baby in her arms. “You will hold your son soon… Thor, look after him while I check on the child and clean him up.”

 

Thor wraps his arms around me, gently moves me against him, and holds me close. He presses several kisses onto my brow and hair, which are covered in sweat, but he doesn’t seem to mind.

 

“Thank you for this gift, Loki… Thank you for having my son… I will always love him – and you.”

 

I don’t bother replying – I’m simply too exhausted for that. Sleipnir however seems to disagree and probes my mind, encouraging me to open my eyes again. I lack the energy to object and open my eyes just in time to see Fay place the baby at my side. He’s tiny – at least, I think so, but his eyes twinkle with pleasure and he raises his miniature hands, trying to touch my face. As far as I’m concerned, he’s perfect. I hope Thor feels the same way.

 

“He –is- perfect, Loki,” Thor quickly assures me. Do not worry, I would have even loved him had his skin been blue and his eyes red…

 

My son doesn’t seem to have inherited the traits that make me part Frost Giant though. He looks normal – which is good. I wouldn’t want him to stand out. I would love to continue to look at him, but I’m too tired. I simply need to rest, but before I can do that, I need to change my form. The transformation won’t make the pain go away—it won’t heal my injuries or give me back my eyesight, but I’ll feel more at ease in my male form.

 

Are you sure you want to do this? Changing your form requires energy and will leave you even more exhausted.

 

I’m sure, Thor… I need to change now or I might never be able to change back at all… I can’t stay that long in one shape – it’s affecting me.

 

Then do it…

 

The transformation happens slowly, simply because I barely have any energy left, but it feels good to be in my former body again. It might be a long time before I’ll feel the need to change myself into a female again. This way I can’t become pregnant again… And I would hate going through another pregnancy right now.

 

Do not worry about it, Loki… I love you regardless of the shape you take… I love –you-.

 

Good, because you’re definitely stuck with me… We have a child now.

 

A beautiful child, yes…. Loki, did you already think of a name?

 

No, should I have? Thor, I wasn’t even sure I was going to live long enough to deliver the child. Surtr didn’t intend for me to leave his fortress alive.

 

I am sure we will find a name that fits him… Go to sleep now, Loki. The next time you wake up, you will feel stronger.

 

I hope so, but I doubt it… I truly exhausted myself.

 

Then what are you doing still arguing with me?

 

Don’t get smart with me… My fatigue overwhelms me and causes me to shut up. I drift off into a deep sleep, knowing that I need to recover a minimum of my strength before I can even think about leaving my bed.

 

TBC

 

Part 6

 

“May we enter?”

 

I look up at hearing Sif’s soft voice –I lost myself gazing at my son, who is soundly asleep in my arms. “Aye, you can, but do not make any noise.” They shuffle closer, one by one, and press close to each other so they fit into the room. Sif is up front with Fandral at her side.

 

“We will not stay for long,” Sif says, “But we would like to see the baby and ask if Loki is doing well.”

 

“Loki exhausted himself… I doubt he will be on his feet anytime soon. And our son, look for yourself. He is perfect, is he not?” Feeling proud, I rise from the chair, leaving Sleipnir and Fay to watch over Loki. “He is strong and healthy!”

 

“He has your eyes,” Fandral remarks, only to be elbowed in his side by Volstagg.

 

“All babies have blue eyes… The color changes later,” Volstagg, the experienced father, tells his friend. “Your son will make a fine warrior one day, Thor, my friend.”

 

I accept the compliment, although I am not sure being a warrior will suit my son best. We will find out when he reaches his majority. “Would you like to hold him?” I ask Sif, upon seeing the longing look in her eyes.

 

She quickly shakes her head though. “I will drop him. I had better not.”

 

“I would like to hold him,” Fandral announces. “I happen to like babies and I have some experiencing looking after Volstagg’s offspring.”

 

Carefully, I place my son in Fandral’s arms. My friend’s face lights up with pleasure and my son seems to notice Fandral’s interest as his tiny hands try to reach his face.

 

“Adorable,” Fandral remarks. “Makes me want one of my own.”

 

Amused, I watch Sif grow flustered. I doubt she knew about Fandral’s wish to start a family. Well, let them sort it out – I have my own family to take care of. I reclaim my son and can’t help feeling proud – my son – my heir.

 

“I reckon you wish to stay here until Loki has regained some of his strength?” Heimdall inquires.

 

“I do… I do not want to wear him down further. He is barely coping as it is… Do not tell him though – he will not react well.”

 

“We will keep quiet,” Volstagg confirms, chuckling.

 

“Can we do anything to help?” Hogun wants to know.

 

“Not that much… We could use more of your soup, Volstagg. Loki needs to start eating when he wakes up.”

 

“Consider it done,” Volstagg says. “Anything else?”

 

“Nay… Maybe you could start the journey home. There is no need for you to stay.”

 

“We would prefer to stay,” Heimdall says earnestly. “We would like to know you safe… “ When I want to protest, Heimdall quickly adds, “We do not doubt your ability to keep your family safe, Thor, but we would like to help.”

 

I know better than trying to convince them otherwise and so I accept their kind offer. “In that case, you are welcome to stay.”

 

“We will give you your privacy,” Sif continues. “We do not wish to impose, but we need to know that the four of you are safe.”

 

The four of us – they are right to include Sleipnir – I consider him part of my family as well. “Thank you…”

 

Sif smiles and pulls Fandral along with her. One by one, they take their leave and then silence returns to the room. I walk over to Sleipnir who watches Loki sleep. He hasn’t left Loki’s side since we arrived. “Would you like to hold your brother?” I offer. Sleipnir gives me a confused look, at which I explain, “You are Loki’s son and therefore family… I hope that you will look upon my son as your brother.”

 

“I would love to hold him,” Sleipnir admits. “But I did not dare ask.”

 

I gently lower my son into Sleipnir’s arms. The baby looks at him for a moment, coos happily, and then closes his eyes, going to sleep. “I suspect you will be often called upon to watch him… He likes you.”

 

“Have you thought of a name yet?” Fay asks as she gets to her feet.

 

“Nay, not yet… “ I frown, realizing she is walking toward the doorway. “You are not leaving, are you? We need you!”

 

“You don’t need me anymore, Thor… All is well with Loki and your son. Loki needs to rest though so he can recuperate… and may I make a suggestion? Maybe your father will allow Loki to use the energy chamber he uses to recuperate in when he’s in the Odinsleep. It might heal Loki’s wounds… Including his eyesight…”

 

“Consider that done…” My father won’t deny me – he won’t dare to when I remind him of his past mistakes where Sleipnir and Loki are concerned.

 

Fay halts in the doorway, looks at me from over her shoulder, and says, “Where I come from, people speak an ancient language… They name their children in a special way… Maybe I might make another suggestion?”

 

“Of course.” I can’t promise to approve of the name she will suggest, but maybe Loki will. We will choose our son’s name together.

 

“When I look into your son’s soul, only one word comes to mind… he was conceived in love – it is the emotion that binds Loki and you… In my language the word love translates into Cariad. I believe it would make a fine name for your son and the future King of Asgard… It is merely a suggestion though… I wish you well, Thor… Tell Loki that I love him and that I will always keep an eye on him… Oh, and make sure he stays out of trouble… He attracts danger, you know.”

 

“I know,” I assure her. “And I will convey your message… I like the name, but I want it to be Loki’s choice…”

 

“A wise decision,” Fay whispers and then her form vibrates in the air, grows dim, and finally vanishes.

 

“You have extraordinary friends, Loki.” I sit down next to him, kiss his brow, and gather his good hand in mine. Looking at Sleipnir, it strikes me how much at peace he looks while holding his younger brother. No, not just at peace – happy. It seems I have gained two sons instead of just one.

 

```

 

I lower Loki back onto the bed and cover him with the blanket made from animal furs. Fandral and I spent the last hour taking care of Loki’s injuries, and seeing the amount of damage Surtr did, angers me all over again. Fandral bandaged Loki’s shoulder the best way he could. We splinted Loki’s fingers and bandaged his arm as well. Volstagg handed us a balm which he always carries with him. He said it would soothe the burns, so we applied it. The fact that Loki remained asleep the entire time shows just how drained he really is.

 

“He will heal,” Fandral offers in an attempt to reassure me. “Loki is tough.”

 

“I know that, my friend, but seeing him in this state makes my heart ache. He did not deserve to be mistreated in that way.” Fandral rests a hand on my shoulder and I look at him. “Trust me, you do not know what you have until you face losing it.”

 

“When Loki wakes up, remind me to thank him.”

 

I’m about to ask Fandral why when Loki starts to move about. I reach for his good hand, cradle it within mine, and open my mind to him so he can use my eyes if he wants to. Loki accepts my offer and I welcome him into my mind. His eyes open and the pure whiteness in them makes me cringe.


“Why do you need to thank me?” Loki asks, revealing he must have heard at least the last part of our conversation. He shifts slightly, trying to make himself more comfortable and then realizes one side of his body is bandaged. He arches an eyebrow inquisitively.

 

“I want to thank you because you told Sif to share her feelings with me. She might have never done so if you had not encouraged her.”

 

Loki attains a more comfortable position and reclines into the pillow. “I didn’t want her to make a mistake like that – especially since I was rather sure you returned her feelings. But, Thor, what happened?” Loki inclines his head towards his shoulder. “I can’t leave the bed anyway! You don’t need to tie me down in order to ensure that I stay put!”

 

I slide closer to him and move his hair away from his face. “I wanted to attend to your wounds earlier, but you decided to give birth to our son instead, remember? Fandral offered his help once he realized you had changed back to your male form. Seeing you as a female does make him nervous.”

 

“Thor, would you stop looking at me? I’m getting tired of having to look at myself the entire time!”

 

“I cannot help it. You –are- the object of my affection.” But for Loki’s sake, I look at Fandral instead. “Better?” Loki grumbles, but seems content. “How do you feel this morning?”

 

“Like Surtr had me for dinner…”

 

“Which reminds me, Fandral, would you fetch something to eat for Loki?” Fandral nods at hearing my request and leaves the room. “Do not think about leaving the bed, Loki… You are not going anywhere.” Loki doesn’t seem convinced though, judging by the way he looks at me.

 

“Shouldn’t we be on our way home?”

 

“Nay, not yet. We will stay here until you are strong enough to travel. I do not want to exhaust you even more.” Loki’s growing restless and I have a good idea why. I direct my gaze to Sleipnir, who has fallen asleep in a chair in a corner of the bedroom. Our son is still in his arms, but awake, and his tingling blue eyes mischievously stare at me. He is all smiles and raises his arms, probably hoping I will collect him, which is what I promptly do. I lift him in my arms and carry him over to the bed. “Our son,” I say proudly as I place him in Loki’s good arm. “You outdid yourself, Loki…”

 

Loki’s fingers trace our son’s face and a deep sigh leaves his lips. “I wasn’t sure having him was the right thing to do, but now that I hold him in my arms, and –know- I can keep him, everything’s been worthwhile.”

 

“He is yours… or ours actually… I had a part in creating him as well.” Our son coos loudly, wraps his fingers around Loki’s thumb, and tries to suckle on it.

 

“Looks like he inherited your sunny disposition…” Loki remarks thoughtfully. “Which is a good thing…”

 

“He inherited your good looks,” I say and press a kiss onto Loki’s hair.

 

“My good looks?” Loki chuckles, but thankfully I don’t hear any self-loathing in it. “I always thought you were the one with the good looks!”

 

“Look at Sleipnir,” I tell him, refusing to give the return of his self-doubt even the smallest chance. “He is good-looking too.” That seems to shut Loki up – good, for it means I got my point across! “Loki, our son needs a name… Did you already think of one?”

 

“In case you hadn’t noticed, I have been asleep!”

 

“More like unconscious!” I say teasingly. “Before Fay left she made a suggestion. Want to hear it?”

 

“I assumed she had left when I didn’t see her sit at my bed…” Loki sighs and I know he would have loved to talk to her. “What did she come up with?”

 

“Cariad… apparently in her own language it means love… I rather like it.”

 

“You want to call our son ‘Love’? Are you mad?”

 

“I can assure you that I am quite sane, but I still like the sound of it… Loki, our son should have a good name – a positive one. He will carry it his whole life…”

 

“Well, if you like it…”

 

I can tell Loki likes it too; he probably just wants to make sure I am not lying and that I really approve of the name. “Shall we name him Cariad then?” Our son suddenly coos with pleasure and reaches for me with his tiny right hand. With his left, he has a tight hold on Loki’s thumb. “Our son seems to approve.”

 

“Well, I’m outnumbered then,” Loki says, but the smile on his face tells me that he doesn’t mind. “Cariad it is then… You can tell Odin though why his grandson ended up with a name like this!”

 

“I will gladly do so…” Odin changed as well and will gladly accept a foreign name as long as his grandson is well and healthy.

 

“I do not wish to infringe, but I bring food…” Volstagg remains standing in the doorway, obviously waiting for us to tell him it is okay to approach.

 

“If you bring food, you are welcome, my friend!” I watch Volstagg with amusement, as the seasoned warrior makes funny faces at the baby. Sometimes I forget he is a five time father and has much more experience raising children than me.

 

“I have soup for Loki and a really nice mix of milk and honey for the little one. My children are particularly fond of it and I hope your son likes it as well.”

 

Loki accepts the bowl filled with soup, which Volstagg carefully hands him. “I won’t bite,” Loki sneers at seeing Volstagg’s nervous expression.

 

“I mean no disrespect,” Volstagg clarifies. “I am merely trying to process what happened lately… You actually gave birth… “ Volstagg turns remarkably shy and I must admit that I don’t know him like that. “I feel like I do not know you… I might have misjudged you in the past.” It is an apology and Loki must know that. I wonder how he will react.

 

“I made mistakes too,” Loki whispers in-between taking sips from his soup. “Let’s leave at that.”

 

“May I…hold the child while I feed him the milk?” Volstagg asks, still in a timid voice.

 

“Yes, you can… You need to take him from me though… I can’t hand him to you… I’m rather limited in my movements due to that blasted shoulder.”

 

Not just his shoulder, but I shield that thought carefully and Loki doesn’t seem to pick up on it.

 

“Your son shows signs of being mischievous like you,” Volstagg says when Cariad tries to pull at his beard. Volstagg lets him, and while feeding him the milk, Cariad goes for the hair as well – pulling it tightly.

 

“By the gods, I hope not…”

 

The words escape Loki unwillingly and make me look at him. “Loki… Cariad is allowed to be cheeky… He is a baby!” A quick scan of Loki’s thoughts tells me what the problem is. Apparently the old self-doubt is still there. “Our son is not evil… Do not even dare to think that! And you are not evil either… And being cheeky is good… I like you that way.” Loki remains hesitant though and busies himself drinking his soup so he doesn’t have to answer me.

 

“Hopefully you will allow me to watch him in the future when you need a moment alone,” Volstagg says after letting the baby burp. “He is a lovely little character.” Cariad might have understood as he claps his hands and tries to go for Volstagg’s beard again. “Not this time, little one.”

 

“His name’s Cariad…” Loki whispers unexpectedly at Volstagg. “I thought you might want to know.”

 

“A lovely name for a lovely child…” Volstagg says and nods. He places Cariad into my arms, collects Loki’s bowl, and heads for the doorway. “I will bring more food shortly… Both of you need to eat.”

 

Loki wants to dismiss Volstagg’s comment, but since his injuries hamper him, he remains motionless instead. “Would you like to hold Cariad again?” I ask my lover.

 

Loki shifts in order to make himself more comfortable and then nods. “Would love to – if you don’t mind.”

 

“Never… for I intend to join you two.” Loki arches an eyebrow, but I merely chuckle. I place Cariad in the crook of his arm and then lie down myself, spooning behind him. “Like this…” Loki moves closer to me and I would have loved to drape my arm across his waist and pull him close, but his injured shoulder is facing me and I would cause him discomfort. So I settle for stroking his hair instead and gently massaging his neck. “Try to rest, Loki… Go back to sleep if you can.”

 

“I will, because now that you’re behind me I can’t see a damn thing, except for the back of my head!”

 

Loki’s comment makes me chuckle softly. “Loki, do not change, ever, you hear me?”

 

“I hear you and that’s the problem! How am I supposed to do as you say and go to sleep when you keep talking?”

 

I press a kiss against the nape of his neck and massage Loki’s scalp. “Sleep, Loki… and dream…” This time, I don’t get a forward reply as Loki is already drifting off into a deep sleep.

 

```

 

“Maybe we should leave for home… I’ll survive the trip.”

 

I eye Loki closely. “You are not strong enough yet. You are too pale, you still feel cold to the touch, and when you try to shift in bed, you tremble afterwards because you are in pain. We will stay here for a few more days… Once you can move about without fainting we will leave.”

 

“You’re impossible! Don’t treat me like that!”

 

“Like what? Like I care about your well-being? Like I love you?” I know that Loki isn’t doing it on purpose; the fact that he is still bedridden after two days annoys him, but two days simply is too little time to recover from what he has been through and I refuse to wear him down again.

 

“I’m sorry… I didn’t mean it like that…” comes Loki’s soft reply.

 

“I know that… I do not hold it against you… Now eat that soup…”

 

Sleipnir hands Loki more of Volstagg’s soup and Loki almost drops it because his vision is off. He is using my eyes and I had been looking at Sleipnir and not at the soup. “My fault,” I say, and this time it’s me apologizing. Loki doesn’t react though. He has been mellow today – eating his soup when he’s told, not moving about too much, sleeping whenever he can… He is doing everything within his power to grow stronger, but it takes time, and time is the one thing he can’t control – hopefully.

 

“Why are you staring at me like that?” Loki’s eyes narrow thoughtfully.

 

He hasn’t been reading my mind then – good, let him be curious… “I was merely wondering…”

 

“What about?”

 

Ah yes, Loki’s back to his usual alertness. “Nothing in particular.”

 

“I don’t believe you,” Loki states and hands the empty bowl to Sleipnir.

 

“You may be right not to believe me,” I tell him and pointedly stare at Cariad, forcing Loki to watch along with me.

 

“Don’t do that… You won’t distract me! What were you wondering about?”

 

“Oh Loki, I am merely teasing you!” I lean in closer and kiss him on his lips.

 

“That won’t work either!” Loki chides me.

 

“You cannot control time, can you?” I decide to have mercy on him.

 

“Time?” Loki frowns. “Never considered controlling time… I have no idea… I never tried.”

 

I wave a finger at him in order to get my warning across. “Do not try!” I shudder at the thought of Loki messing with the passing of time. Chaos would ensue!

 

“Don’t worry… I don’t feel like messing up time.”

 

Ah, now he –is- reading my thoughts.

 

“I never heard anyone quarrel as much as you two do…” Sleipnir says softly, obviously worried his observation is unwanted.

 

“We like it that way,” I clarify the matter in case Sleipnir worries we are really at odds. “I like to tease him and he cannot help reacting to it… Sometimes Loki starts our quarrel… It depends…”

 

“You make us sound like an old married couple!”

 

“You,” I tell Loki, “spent too much time on Earth!” I take his hand in mine and press a kiss onto its back. “And are you not supposed to rest?”

 

“I would be resting, if you would let me!”

 

Loki is smiling and I smile back at him. Looking at Sleipnir tells me that he figured it out. “We express our love that way.”

 

“I understand,” Sleipnir says relieved. “In that case, I do not need to worry.”

 

“No, you don’t, Sleipnir… All is well between Thor and me.”

 

“Even better than well,” I quip. I can’t help myself.

 

“You must have the last word, don’t you?” Loki chuckles.

 

“Aye, I must.”

 

```

 

“Does this little demonstration satisfy you? Is it good enough for you?”

 

Loki sounds annoyed and I can’t be angry with him for it. I kept him confined to bed for five days in total, and although he is still in pain, he is also going up the walls. If I make him rest any longer, he will start to get nasty. “Loki, if you believe you are fit to travel, we will leave tomorrow.”

 

Loki nods, obviously pleased. “I knew you would see it my way.” He makes his way back to the bed, painstakingly slow, but with his head held high. I know he is in pain though. “Think of it this way – the sooner you get me home, the sooner I can continue my recovery.”

 

He has been using that argument for the last two days now, ever since he really started to get itchy about his enforced bed rest. “I know that you want your eyesight restored and your injuries healed, but I do not want you to suffer any unnecessary pain prior to that.” I help him lie down, and although Loki glares at me for offering my assistance, he accepts my support.

 

We are alone, which I am grateful for. I need a moment in private with my lover. Cariad is in the best hands; Volstagg and Sleipnir are looking after him. “I want to talk to you…” I pull up the blanket and tuck it around Loki’s form – pointedly ignoring his dagger-like looks. “About Sleipnir.”

 

“What about my son?”

 

Someone else might not notice it, but I do. Loki calling Sleipnir his son makes it clear that he will never allow anyone to part them again – I don’t intend to. “Maybe Sleipnir can move into a room close to our quarters? That way he would be close to you…” My suggestion takes Loki by surprise, rendering him speechless. “I do not want him to go back to his former life. He deserves much better. He deserves a family.”

 

“Are you serious? Considering Cariad entered our lives as well? Do you really wish to take on Sleipnir as well?”

 

“You make it sound like Sleipnir presents a burden. He does not. He is part of our family, or do you not agree on the matter?” I know I do not play fair, but I need to get my point across.

 

“He’s my son, Thor…” Loki whispers. “I always wanted to be close to him.”

 

“That matter is settled then.”

 

“Do you think Odin will accept that? Sleipnir…”

 

“Sleipnir will not go back to being a mere horse! I will not allow it!”

 

“But Odin looks upon Sleipnir as his possession…”

 

Until this very moment I didn’t realize how deeply our father hurt Loki the day he took Sleipnir away from him. I gather Loki in my arms – carefully as to not to cause him discomfort and pull him against me. “Sleipnir is no one’s possession. He is his own master, and nay…” I smother his protest before Loki can voice it, “Odin does not have a say in this. He does not rule Asgard… He is no longer King – we are. We make our own rules…” I can only hope I got through to him – Loki can be rather stubborn when he wants to be.

 

I’m not stubborn! I’m realistic.

 

I welcome the fact that he is talking to me in my mind again. He refrained from doing so during these last few days—probably because it costs more energy than speaking aloud. He is growing stronger then. Nay, not realistic, pessimistic!

 

Loki turns his head towards me and smiles. You know what Sleipnir would say upon hearing us now?

 

I do… We are arguing again – and that is the way I like it!

 

TBC

 

Part 7

 

“You might need these… I packed those clothes before we left… I assumed a spare outfit might come in handy.”

 

Hogun hands me the clothes and I nod gratefully. “That was thoughtful of you.” Hogun inclines his head and actually offers me a smile, which is odd—Hogun seldom smiles.

 

“With each passing day, you act more like a King… I feel honored that I may serve you…”

 

Hogun’s statement takes me aback – he’s the quiet type, who seldom offers anything personal. “Thank you…” I whisper eventually, as I don’t know what to say.

 

Hogun leaves the room and Sleipnir makes his way over to me. Cariad is asleep in bed and curled his little fingers into the pillow. “I need help,” I admit reluctantly. I can’t possibly dress myself with my shoulder and arm hampering me.

 

“I will help,” Sleipnir offers.

 

It takes time, but he manages to get me into my pants and shirt. At least I don’t feel that naked anymore. Sleipnir is quiet and I’m under the impression that something worries him. “Why don’t we sit down? We need to talk.” Sleipnir complies at once and shifts nervously on the side of the bed. “What’s on your mind? You’re worried.”

 

“I have been thinking about my future,” Sleipnir offers out of his own accord. “I wonder if we will still be able to talk to each other once we return home.”

 

Ah, I can actually help with that! “Thor and I discussed that yesterday… And we reached the conclusion that you’re part of our family now. We’ll ready rooms for you near to ours…”

 

“That implies I stay in this form…but do you think Odin will allow it?”

 

It’s like I hear myself talking. “Thor reminded me of the fact that Odin is no longer King… Thor and I rule Asgard… Thor will fight for you, and with him at our side I feel confident that Odin will give in.”

 

“I would like to stay close to you – and your family.”

 

“It’s your family too, Sleipnir. Thor has a big heart and you’re a part of this family…” I feel for him and offer him my hand, which Sleipnir takes without hesitation. The physical contact deepens our bond. “You can still change into your other form if you’d like to run like that… I like to change into a bird so I can fly… I love to fly.”

 

“I like to run in that way too,” Sleipnir confirms… “Maybe we can do so together in the future.”

 

“We will,” I promise him.

 

“Loki, we are about to leave…if you are ready, that is.” Thor steps into the room and marches toward me.

 

“I’m ready…”

 

“How do you want to do this?” Thor inquires. “You can travel in the chariot, if you want. Sif and Fandral retrieved it and Geri and Freki are eager to return home.”

 

“I’d rather stay close to you,” I admit, feeling a tad embarrassed about that.

 

“I like it best that way too…” Thor says, making me feel less self-conscious. “And will you carry Cariad?”

 

“I shouldn’t… I don’t think I can hold him properly…”

 

“Maybe you feel comfortable if Volstagg held him during the journey? I can change into my old form and carry them,” Sleipnir suggests.

 

Touching his mind tells me that Sleipnir wants to do this for me – it would make him happy if I accepted his help. “I’d like that.”

 

“The others can ride the chariot…” Thor says. “It is decided then… Shall we leave then?”

 

“Sleipnir, would you pick up Cariad and carry him? I can’t.” Stupid shoulder! Stupid arm!

 

“Actually, that is a good idea!”

 

Suddenly Thor’s at my side and lifts me in his arms. “What do you think you’re doing? Put me down this instant!”

 

“Nay… If you want to fly this is the way it is going to be. I want you to be comfortable during our journey home. Can you agree to this?”

 

I don’t have much of choice, I reckon. “You win.” I rest my head against Thor’s shoulder and draw in a deep breath. Hopefully the others won’t think of me as a wimp for letting Thor carry me.

 

They know you are still healing… They saw the damage Surtr did.

 

Thank you for reminding me – it doesn’t make me feel better about myself though.

 

Do not be so hard on yourself, Loki.

 

That’s easier said than done though.

 

```

 

I wake up because Thor’s whispering into my ear – which is plainly annoying. Shut up.

 

“I am sorry, but I cannot… We made camp and will rest during the night. You need to wake up so you can eat and Volstagg wants to check on your burns.”

 

I don’t want to wake up as it means facing reality. I prefer continuing the dream I just had, but it’s no use. If Thor believes I need to eat, he won’t let me rest until I did. I open my eyes and connect with Thor’s mind so I can look through his eyes.

 

Thor placed me onto the grass, propping my head up on his thigh and serving as a pillow. Cariad’s asleep next to me and is blissfully unaware of his father bullying me.

 

“I hope that you are hungry. I brought along lots of the soup, which I made back at the cabin.” Volstagg sits down next to me and guides my hand toward the bowl with soup. Thankfully Thor remembers where I need him to look and I manage to place the bowl at my lips.

 

“Tell me if it is too hot… We will let it cool down if it is.”

 

Volstagg’s getting on my nerves – I prefer him taunting me to hovering over me. “What about Cariad?”

 

“He already drank his share earlier – more than his share actually. He was rather hungry. It is also the reason why he is so soundly asleep right now,” Volstagg explains. He gives Cariad a fond look; it’s obvious he has taken a liking to my son.

 

I manage to eat the soup, put the bowl aside onto the grass, and try to make myself more comfortable. Thor gently moves me into a sitting position.

 

“Lean against me. Abuse me as a pillow… I do not mind.”

 

I rest my back against Thor and relish his body heat. He was right earlier – I still feel cold at times.

 

“May I check your injuries? Your burns in particular? I cannot do much where your broken bones are concerned, but I might be able to take away  the burning sensation.”

 

Must I let him?

 

I would greatly welcome it if you did, Loki.

 

Looks I’m outnumbered again. I don’t like it though. Heimdall, Fandral, Sif and Hogun are sitting close and will be able to watch. I don’t mind Thor or Sleipnir seeing the burns, but I hate being put on display for the rest.

 

It is not like that… And Loki, except for Hogun and Heimdall, all have seen the extent of your injuries. You have no reason to hide those battle scars.

 

Battle scars? I know why Thor said it, but it sounds ridiculous. “I’ll allow you to torture me,” I say addressing Volstagg, who smiles at me.

 

“I want to take away your pain, Loki, not inflict more.”

 

I know that, but I can’t escape my fears and worries. Not all the time at any rate.

 

```

 

I feel better after Thor helps me back into my shirt. I must admit Volstagg’s balm takes away the stinging and I do feel more at ease. I have the feeling Thor will make sure I let Volstagg check on my burns each night until we are back at home.

 

You are right about that…

 

Must you always eavesdrop?

 

As a matter of fact, yes, otherwise I would not know what is going on in that head of yours. Sometimes you need a reality-check.

 

Now who spent too much time with humans?

 

Point taken…

 

“Loki? Thor…?”

 

Sleipnir stands next to us and has a thoughtful look on his face. “Sit down, my son.” I need to remind myself that it’s okay to call him that. We both need to hear it – need to confirm our relationship. Sleipnir sits down and smiles shyly. “You can call me mother if that’s what you prefer. I –am- your mother, even though I no longer look like it.”

 

“Thank you… I am trying to get used to the fact that I have a family now. I never had one before and it feels good, knowing that I am no longer alone.”

 

I raise my good arm, manage to get a hold of his hand, and bury it inside mine. Sensing what he needs for me, I simply caress his fingers and allow for the exchange of emotions that’s happening between us to take place. Sleipnir sends me his love, and as I can’t do anything less, I express my love for him as well, sending him my thoughts.

 

Thor keeps quiet for which I’m grateful; he probably knows what’s happening and luckily doesn’t feel threatened.

 

```

 

The next six days are all like that. We travel during the day, and although we could continue during the night, Thor insists we rest – for my sake mostly. No matter how much I protest that decision, he won’t change his mind. In the end, I give up. Thor can be thick-headed.

 

When the walls of Asgard appear in the distance, I grow nervous again. Thor might think everything will go well, but I’m not that sure. Odin may no longer be King, but I’ll never stop thinking of him as my superior first, and only then as my father. I shield my thoughts though, as I don’t want Thor to pick up on my fears. I don’t want him to worry.

 

“We will arrive within the hour,” Thor announces. “Maybe we should pause and allow for our friends to arrive first so they can inform our parents about our return?”

 

“Will it make a difference? I don’t think so.” If Odin decides to oppose our decisions, he will, being informed beforehand or not. Maybe it’s best to surprise him. “We’ll do it your way this time – we will march in there and…”

 

“Make him see things our way,” Thor finishes when I’m lost for words. “Do not worry, Loki. Everything will go well.”

 

I wish I had Thor’s faith, but I don’t.

 

```

 

“Are you ready to do this then?” Thor inquires as we approach the main hall – the throne room.

 

It’s noon and during this time, Odin, Frigga, and the council will hold their daily meeting. That means we will crash their little party. “We don’t have a choice.” And I hate that.

 

You always have a choice.

 

Yes, but then I would be running away and I refuse to do that ever again!

 

Thor flies into the hall and lands in front of the assembled council, which Odin presides. Our mother is present as well, as she councils our father, if he has need for it.

 

“Thor! Loki!” Odin practically jumps to his feet in joy and heads our way. “I am happy that you are back! We greatly worried about the two of you!”

 

Thor puts me on my feet – thank you for that! – and I manage to stand without his help. Thor however keeps an arm wrapped around me – half supporting, half protecting me. I don’t need the protection, but I allow it.

 

“Loki! I worried about you! When you disappeared, I feared the worst!”

 

Odin comes to a halt in front of me and rests the palm of his hand against my cheek, rubbing my facial skin. “What did Surtr do to you? Your eyes… You are blind…” His voice fills with sorrow, and as my eyesight is linked to Thor’s, I see the sorrow on Odin’s face.

 

“I can deal with it,” I assure him. “I’m using Thor’s eyes instead.” Then his gaze travels lower – to my abdomen to be exact – and the smile freezes on his face. “Did you… did you lose your child?”

 

At first, his question angers me. It makes me feel like a failure—like I wouldn’t have fought for my son’s life, but then a tear leaves Odin’s eye… and then another one.

 

“Please, tell me that your son is alive, Loki… I know how much having him means to you.”

 

“He is alive,” Thor says, interrupting. “And will arrive within the next few minutes.”

 

Odin sighs deeply, closes his eye, and wipes away his tears. He raises his arm and beckons Frigga to join us. My mother moves towards me and wraps me up in an embrace.

 

“Loki, we were so afraid – afraid you would be killed.”

 

“I don’t die that easily,” I remind her and manage to make her smile.

 

“Is it true? Is our grandson alive?” Frigga asks and her eyes shine with love.

 

“Cariad is well,” Thor says, once more answering the question. “He is in the care of Volstagg.”

 

“Good choice… Volstagg knows about babies,” Frigga comments. She refuses to let go of me and hugs me again. “I missed you!”

 

“Father, I want a word with you before the others arrive,” Thor states in a clear voice, which makes me flinch. I should be the one fighting this battle, but I lack conviction – I don’t believe I can make Odin give in. Thor’s certain he can.

 

Odin frowns, but then nods. “Speak your mind.”

 

“I want to make it very clear that Cariad is –our- son. Loki and I are his parents. We will raise him. We will love him and take care of him. We are his guardians, no one else.”

 

Odin blinks in surprise. “But of course… Who would dare say differently?”

 

Thor gives me an expectant look. Loki, this is your chance to unburden your soul… Tell him about Sleipnir.

 

I don’t think I can… Even after all these years, he still intimidates me. But will Thor understand? Apparently, he does, because he turns to face our father once more.

 

“You did, when you took Sleipnir away from Loki.”

 

Thor’s accusation makes me cringe and my first reaction is to assure Odin that Thor didn’t mean it like that, but I can’t speak the words… I can’t deny the truth.

 

“Sleipnir? Loki, I never..” Odin doesn’t finish and simply stares at me in wonder.

 

“You knew I wanted him close… I told you repeatedly…”

 

“I only did what I thought was right – what was the best of you…” Odin doesn’t sound sure of himself though. “I misjudged the situation. I know that… I told you so, remember?”

 

“You did,” I whisper. “Sleipnir is my son… He always will remain my child.”

 

“But he is a horse,” Frigga says and frowns. Then she turns to her husband and her frown deepens. “I do not understand…”

 

“Sleipnir is not just a horse,” Thor says when I fail to speak the words. “Sleipnir is a shape-shifter – limited to two forms, aye, but he is not just a horse!”

 

Thank you for coming to my aid… The situation overwhelms me and I lean heavily against Thor, who instantly tightens his hold on me. Our mother continues to look at Odin, searching for answers, which she will get any moment now as I sense Sleipnir’s approach. Please stay at my side… I need you, I implore Thor, who nods sharply.

 

A moment later, Sleipnir flies into the hall, lands close to us, and Volstagg, who holds Cariad, jumps from his back. Our mother’s attention immediately shifts toward her grandson. Cariad is awake and curiously taking in his surroundings, while maintaining a hold on Volstagg’s beard.

 

“Is that…?” Frigga moves forward, but then stops in order to look at me. “Is that your son?”

 

I nod. “Thor and I named  him Cariad… and yes, he’s your grandson.” Frigga senses the underlying tension and seems hesitant to continue. “You can hold him…” I tell her, hoping to set her mind at ease. “Be careful though… As you can see he’s rather fond of pulling people’s hair.”

 

Frigga however merely chuckles, walks toward Volstagg, and welcomes Cariad into her arms. My son looks at her in surprise, decides he likes her and waves her arms at her in an attempt to move closer to his grandmother.

 

“He is absolutely delightful!” Frigga exclaims ecstatically. “A miniature copy of you, Thor!”

 

Odin however still stares at me and then his gaze shifts toward Sleipnir. I can’t help feeling protective of my firstborn and free myself from Thor’s embrace, who gives me a worried look, but lets me go. Slowly I walk toward Sleipnir – I can’t afford to appear weak right now or stumble over my own two feet. Reveal yourself to him, my son… Do not be afraid… If only I would stop feeling scared.

 

Sleipnir shows his courage when he changes his shape to the one I have come to know and love him in during these last few days. I slip my good hand into his and turn to face Odin, hoping and praying I’ll find the courage to stake my claim. “This is Sleipnir. He is my son – my firstborn. You took him away from me after I gave birth to him. You won’t do that ever again… Sleipnir is done serving you… He will live with Thor, Cariad, and me. We are a family and nothing you say or do will change that!” Bold words, if only I believed them!

 

Thor walks towards me and takes up position next to me. “I support Loki in this matter, father. Sleipnir and Loki are kin… You should not keep them apart.”

 

I expect Odin to lash out at me – lecture me at best, but I’m totally unprepared when seeing the utter shock on his face. Deep lines appear on his brow and he seems to literally age in front of me.

 

“I never realized… I only tried to… I am so sorry… never thought…” Odin bows his head and draws in a series of deep breaths.

 

Does that mean I might actually get away with claiming Sleipnir as my son? Odin won’t oppose us? Will he let me have Sleipnir? My mother looks at me quite stunned, but then her gaze grows determined.

 

“Loki… I never knew about this matter… Rest assured that Odin will not interfere again. I will see to it.”

 

I witnessed my mother’s wrath just once, but I recall Odin cower in front of her, trying to appease her. With my mother on my side, I might stand a chance.

 

“She is right… I will not meddle –ever again. Loki, I thought allowing you close to Sleipnir was the wrong thing to do… I never knew Sleipnir was capable of assuming this form – of shape shifting, like you…”

 

“Would it have changed matters if you had known?” Sleipnir asks and it’s the first time his angers shows. “I witnessed Loki practically begging you to let us have some form of contact – you refused. Loki is my mother… My mother!” His voice grew from calm to enraged and I squeeze his hand in an attempt to calm him down as Odin doesn’t react well to being lectured.

 

“I am truly sorry.” Odin’s shoulders drop and he shakes his head. “I can never make amends for the wrongs I did… I can only offer you my apology.”


“Now that you mention it,” Thor says, who remained quiet until now. “You can make amends. Loki requires something from you – two things, which only you can supply.”

 

What are you doing? You don’t want to make him mad!

 

Trust me, Loki. This will work.

 

It’s not like I have a choice. And so I grow quiet and listen to their exchange while trying to radiate calm into Sleipnir’s mind.

 

“Whatever you need from me, you have it,” Odin says, eager to make up for past mistakes.

 

“We want your word that you will release Sleipnir from his service. You will not meddle in their relationship, and neither will you interfere with the way we raise Cariad,” Thor demands.

 

Thank you, I whisper into Thor’s mind. Thank you for giving us that.

 

Thor nods, but then continues. “Secondly, Loki is in need of healing. Fandral, Volstagg, and I already treated his wounds, but they are severe and will not heal by conventional means. Also, Surtr took Loki’s eyesight. He is blind if he does not use someone else’s eyes. Fay told us that spending time in your energy chamber will heal those injuries. Loki’s eyes will regenerate. I know that you only use your energy chamber during the Odinsleep, but now Loki has need of it. Will you allow him to use it?”

 

“Of course! Loki…Thor, I am not your enemy… I am merely an old fool who made grave mistakes in the past. I still love you—both…”

 

Odin appears shaken and I can’t help but feel sorry for him. I know that he never hurt me on purpose, but he still caused me pain. “I need time,” I tell him. “Ever since I found out about Sleipnir, I… I’m…”

 

“Say it.”

 

Odin moves towards me and comes to a halt in front of me. Thankfully Thor redirects his gaze so I can see Odin’s face. “I can’t…” A part of me remains afraid of him.

 

“Say it, my son… Please…” Odin says and rubs my facial skin with his thumb. “I already know what you will say and I will not grow mad. I will not yell at you… I will not humiliate you…”

 

“I… am… angry… with you.” I actually said it! Thor’s hand settles on my good shoulder and Sleipnir pulls my hand close to his chest, where his heart is. They know I need their support and give it freely. “I’m angry with you…” Odin draws in a deep breath and then carefully embraces me.

 

“I would be mad as hell with me if I were you,” Odin whispers into my ear. “But we will discuss this later. Thor is right – you need to heal first. Let me lead the way and do not worry about your sons. Sleipnir is free to go where he wants and to do as he pleases. Cariad is under your mother’s protection as you can see – your son is safe.”

 

Odin’s words should reassure me, but my paranoia remains.

 

“I understand, my son,” Odin says as he leads me toward the doorway.

 

On the verge of panicking, I reach out to Thor. I can’t see where I’m going now that we’re moving out of Thor’s view. Don’t leave me alone! Thor reacts at once, catches up with me, and falls into step with me. “Where are we going?”

 

“You need to restore your strength, Loki. It is time for you to rest… You will experience the Odinsleep, and hopefully, it will heal you.”

 

```

 

I feel nervous when Odin tells me to lie down. The energy field buzzes when I come into contact with it, and I almost reconsider, but then Thor reaches out to me and manages to calm me down.

 

“You want to heal, do you not, Loki?” Thor says as he helps me lie down. “You want your eyesight restored, or not?”

 

Of course I want that, but it’s hard to put my trust in Odin. Will the energy field really restore my eyesight? Heal my injures?

 

“Someone will sit with you the entire time,” Thor continues, trying to set my mind at ease. “Sleipnir will take first watch, because I need to take care of our son first. Then I will return to you and watch over you… I promise.”

 

I know that Thor keeps his promises… He always does.

 

“Now lie down,” Odin instructs. “Get as comfortable as you can, because once you are asleep, you will not wake up until you are fully healed.”

 

That thought scares me. What if someone manages to sneak into the room? Someone like Skurge? What if he hurts Sleipnir and I can’t react?

 

“We intensified our security after you were abducted, Loki… There will be four Guards in here with you at all times.”

 

“And I will be here… And Sif, Fandral, Volstagg… must I continue?” Thor says and smiles.

 

Trust has always been an issue for me and now I need to trust them to take care of me. I lie down, realizing I need to have faith in them. I get as comfortable as I can, considering my broken shoulder still hampers me, and try to control the fear that takes a hold of me.

 

“Close your eyes, my son… Close them and go to sleep… It is a pleasant sleep that awaits you…”

 

Odin might find it pleasant, but who says I will? This is wrong… so wrong… This is Odin’s domain – not mine, what am I doing here? Invading it and…

 

Rest, my son… Close your eyes and let the healing begin… You need to heal in so many ways. I will make sure that no harm comes to you… Close your eyes, Loki, and go to sleep… When you wake up, you will be whole again.

 

In the past, Odin seldom reached out to me in that way – sending me his thoughts. Maybe I should take it as a sign that he’s okay with this.

 

Loki, go to sleep. Stop fighting this – stop fighting -me-. You are wasting precious energy… Now let yourself fall… Odin says in my mind.

 

I will catch you… I always do… Thor adds.

 

I don’t stand a chance against their combined forces and let go. The truth is that I’m tired – still tired after all the days of rest I had. My eyes start to feel heavy and I close them. I surrender to the Odinsleep and drift off.

 

TBC

 

Part 8

 

When Thor and I were little, Odin once told us that being in the Odinsleep was like experiencing a living dream. Our father told us that he could still see and hear us and encouraged us to come sit with him and tell us everything we had done that day. We did… Often we sat with him and took turns telling him. When he eventually woke, he knew everything we had told him and that greatly impressed us.

 

Now I’m experiencing the Odinsleep myself and it’s exactly like my father said. In my mind, I ‘see’ everything that happens around me. At first, Sleipnir kept watch at my side, but then, as time passed by, Thor took his place. Thor told me about our son, and about Volstagg hovering over Cariad. He told me about Fandral and Sif sharing quarters, and about Sleipnir, who found a protector in my mother. Frigga decided to take him under her wings and glares at Odin whenever he attempts to talk to Sleipnir. My son is in the best hands then.

 

Being in the Odinsleep feels like nothing I ever experienced before. It feels like being wrapped up in a soothing warm blanket. At first, I worried that it might not work because I’m part Frost Giant, but as time went by, I started to feel – different. That’s the only word I can use to describe the sensation. I feel different.

 

I lost track of time rather quickly and I can’t tell how many hours, or maybe even days passed by. But when the urge to open my eyes becomes too strong, I give in and start to wake up.

 

Immediately, Thor’s at my side, leaning in closer and eying me worriedly. I feel fine though and I can see him – I see him without having to use someone else’s eyes. My eyesight has been restored then, just like Fay had promised.

 

Fay… I dreamt of her as well… I traveled to distant lands and dwelt in a forest, green and luscious, and lined with apple trees. Once, I left the forest and stood upon white cliffs. A wild sea raged below me and I could make out a small boat sailing those untamed waves… A woman looking like Fay sat in it, and it was her, and then again it wasn’t.

 

“Loki? Are you awake? Can you hear me?”

 

Thor’s voice sounds urgent and I should compose myself as I don’t want to worry him. “I…am…awake…” My voice sounds foreign to me, maybe even weak as I haven’t used it for a while.

 

“That is good… Father said you might wake from your sleep today… Can you sit up?”

 

With Thor’s assistance I manage to get into a sitting position. I look about and take in my surroundings. The Guards are still in place and Sleipnir moves forward. He comes to a halt behind Thor and offers me a smile.

 

“You see me,” Sleipnir says happily.

 

“I do…” I confirm and try to shake the cobwebs from my mind. Although my body has recovered from its injuries, I still feel tired, but in a different way. It feels like I’m moving in slow motion and my surroundings are fast-forwarding.

 

“Father said adjusting might take time… Apparently he always needed a few hours to adjust to existence outside of the energy field. Considering the fact that your healing process lasted eight days, I expect you to remain dazed for a more hours at the least,” Thor informs me.

 

I feel relieved at hearing that Odin experienced the same thing in the past. “Thor…” I look at him and wonder what I was about to say – I forgot.

 

“It is normal,” Odin says as he enters the room and walks towards me. “You should rest during the next few hours… Slowly everything will shift into the right perspective again.”

 

I nod – slowly though as any other motion might make me dizzy.

 

“Take Loki to your rooms, Thor… He will feel more comfortable there. And I reckon he will want to hold Cariad again,” Odin suggests.

 

Thor doesn’t give me a chance to voice my thoughts in the matter as he pushes his arms beneath my body and lifts me from the energy pod. “You must like… carrying me around…” He has been doing so for the last few weeks; it’s a miracle he hasn’t grown tired of it.

 

“As a matter of fact, I do love holding you in my arms…”

 

Like so many times before in these last few weeks, I rest my weary head against his shoulder. I resist closing my eyes though –relishing the fact that my vision has been restored. From the corner of my eye I see that Sleipnir follows us out of Odin’s rooms and into the corridor.

 

“Cariad will be happy to see you. I believe he missed you and that is why he has been a bit insufferable lately. No one seems to be able to calm him down – not even Sleipnir.”

 

My son missed me… I like that thought. Thor carries me back to our rooms and places me on our bed. The bed we made love in – the spot where Cariad was conceived.

 

Cariad sees me and makes some unidentifiable noise. He raises his arms and reaches for me. I smile sleepily and try to reach out to him in my mind. He’s still too young though to understand what’s happening, and when Thor lays me down, I manage to pull Cariad against me. Curling up around my son, I close my eyes and fall asleep again.

 

```

 

Opening my eyes, the golden rays of the sun greet me and dance across the wall, eager for me to watch their play. I feel completely at peace and watch their dance unfold. The sunbeams remind me of the way some flames dance for my pleasure. The next thing I notice is the fresh air which enters my lungs each time I inhale. There’s a distinct flowery smell in the room, and when it drifts up my nostrils, I could swear I smell daffodils – how odd.

 

“Loki, how are you? Your thoughts are rather…peculiar.”

 

It’s Thor of course, lying next to me. He must have woken up when I did, for he’s giving me a curious look. “I feel like I have been reborn…” It’s the only way to describe the sensations running through me. “It’s like everything is happening for the first time…”

 

Thor moves closer to me, lies down on his back, and pulls me half-way atop of him. I settle down on my side and stare at him – much like a love-sick fool, I’m afraid. “I love you…”

 

“Good, because I love you too. That makes two of us.”

 

By the gods, how I missed him teasing me! “Where’s Cariad?” Why isn’t he in bed with us?

 

“Your sleep was rather restless I am afraid… You tossed and turned for the first half of the night and I could not risk Cariad getting crushed in the process. Sleipnir offered to watch him. Your firstborn now lives next-door. He is only a heartbeat away.”

 

Hearing that sets my mind at ease. “What else happened while I was asleep?”

 

“Not much… No one attacked Asgard… I did not get to fight any Giants… No sneaky, mean Dwarves managed to get inside either. It is hard to believe, but Asgard is at peace and we are safe.”

 

I chuckle at hearing that particular update. “I do feel sorry for you – I know how much you like to beat up Giants…”

 

“Or pummel Dwarves…  I will settle for Dwarves if there are no Giants… But do you know what I missed the most?” Thor pauses for some dramatic effect and I promptly swat his chest, pummeling him. Thor takes it in stride though. “I missed kissing you… making love to you…having you in my mind… I missed feeling connected to you…”

 

I feel the same way… I rest my head onto his chest and draw in a deep, soothing breath. “I missed you too.”

 

“You are completely healed… I examined you earlier… Your shoulder is healed… The burns are gone and your fingers are straight again… and most importantly, your eyesight has been restored.”

 

“It was getting rather annoying having to use someone else’s eyes in order to see,” I admit. “I was growing tired of watching myself.”

 

“I never grow tired of watching you… in fact, I watched you sleep for the last two hours… When you sleep, your face is relaxed and I love the open expression on it.”

 

“You watched me sleep? Is that a good thing?”

 

“It is, for it shows how much I love you, Loki.”

 

In that case, I’ll allow him to watch me sleep, but Thor had better not make a habit out of it… Normally, I don’t like being watched.

 

```

 

I surprise myself by remaining calm when I have to face my friends and family. Odin called for a meeting, and by the looks of it, everyone showed up: Sif and Fandral, – who are holding hands behind their backs. Volstagg, Hogun, Heimdall, Sleipnir, and my parents of course. Everyone is accounted for.

 

Cariad is in my arms when Thor and I enter the throne room, which is empty except for the small group that assembled there. Thor’s hand rests against the small of my back and I appreciate the subtlety of the gesture – offering support without making it too obvious.

 

“Loki, I am glad you made a complete recovery!” my mother says and hugs me, carefully not to crush Cariad in-between us. “You look much better and I am happy that your eyesight has been returned to you…”

 

“Thank you…” Her sincerity causes me to blush slightly. Suddenly, our friends move in, pat me on the back, make funny faces and sounds at Cariad, and start talking simultaneously. Thor wants to stop them, but I tell him not to. It’s okay – I can deal with it for they mean well.

 

A raven’s croaking call echoes through the hall and Nuada flies toward the throne. The cheeky bird actually settles on top of the throne and taps his beak against it. “Behave…” I tell him, but Nuada isn’t impressed and tries to sharpen his beak by moving it against the golden throne.

 

“Let him,” Thor says… “He cannot do much damage at any rate.”

 

Well, if Thor doesn’t mind I won’t waste my time trying to make Nuada obey. Instead I focus on Sleipnir who stands toward the side, waiting for his turn to greet us. It warms my heart to see that he too looks happier today. He even exchanged his sober white-gray outfit for a warmer one – adding gold to the mixture, which completely changes his appearance. “My son…” Sleipnir moves toward me and greets me by hugging me.

 

I shift my gaze toward Odin and wonder why he demanded I dressed in my ceremonial clothes for this meeting. I complied, but refused to wear the helmet, as I didn’t see the need for it. “Why are we here?”

 

“We are here because your subjects need to know there is a new heir to the throne… They need to know about Cariad… They will want to pay him their respects and you should give them that chance. Asgard resembles a beehive these days – everyone is inventing the most fantastic stories they can imagine…”

 

Duty calls then… I should have known it would be something like that. “When will they arrive?”

 

“In an hour…” Odin says. “Loki, Cariad is heir to the throne of Asgard, but Sleipnir deserves some recognition as well and I want to give him that. I know that you worry about my involvement and I want to take away your concern. Should anything happen to the two of you – or should you be unable to take care of Cariad, I want Sleipnir to act in your stead. That is why I will name him Cariad’s Guardian. I know it does not compare to the hurt I inflicted on the two of you, but it is the only way I can make amends.”

 

I sense his sincerity – he really wants to make amends and knowing that Sleipnir is Cariad’s Guardian does help set my mind at ease; I know that Sleipnir will act in Cariad’s best interest. “Thank you…”

 

I hand Cariad to Thor, who cradles our son against his chest and take a step towards Odin. I know what I need to do – for my own peace of mind – but forgiving my father remains difficult. “I’m working on it,” I admit as I allow Odin to hug me loosely. It’s a start though…

 

```

 

I change back into my normal form and watch Sleipnir do the same. We went running – both taking the guise of an eight-legged horse. It felt good to run alongside him and Sleipnir’s smile tells me that he feels the same way. We settle down in a quiet place and I rest my back against the trunk of a tree. I reach for Sleipnir and pull him against me. My son eagerly gives in and snuggles up to me. Time ceases to exist and I truly enjoy our closeness.

 

```

 

The next morning, Thor offers to watch Cariad so I can spend more time with Sleipnir, but our meeting falls short, as my mother claims my son instead. I let her, knowing she enjoys having a large family – and she really took a liking to Sleipnir. It does him lots of good – he walks with his head held higher and he no longer tries to avoid running into Odin.

 

That leaves me with spare time on my hands and I don’t know what to do with it. Thor mentioned visiting Volstagg because Cariad does like the seasoned warrior and I don’t want to interrupt them. So instead of joining them, I decide to head for the library. When I was younger, I spent a lot of time there – reading and studying magic. I always liked the peace and quiet which rule supreme within those walls. It’s the one place where Thor would never come to look for me – he doesn’t like books much.

 

Walking through these long and familiar corridors, my love for books returns to me, and I fondly caress the book coverings. I let my fingertips glide along the leather and the paper pages of the books lying on the table of front of me.

 

Then my fingers freeze, and not just my fingers… I feel wholly paralyzed all of a sudden. It isn’t a spell I’m under – no, it’s shock. There’s a book in the center of the table and merely looking at it makes me feel incapable of drawing in my next breath. The title is set in black and heavy letters, and when I speak the words, I know what the book is about.

 

“Ragnarök - the destiny of the gods.”

 

My breathing turns irregular and I force myself to concentrate on drawing in air. This book has no right to be here – it shouldn’t be here! I don’t want to see it. Don’t want to read about…

 

“Calm yourself, Loki… You don’t need to be afraid.”

 

At hearing Fay’s voice, I turn around, and stare at her. I don’t want to look at that book ever again! “Can’t you take it away?”

 

“I don’t need to.” Fay walks toward the table and makes a gesture with her hand, at which the book opens. “Brothers will fight and kill each other. Sisters’ children will defile kinship. It is harsh in the world, whoredom rife- an axe age, a sword age – shields are riven – a wind age, a wolf age – before the world goes headlong. No man will have mercy on another.”                                                

 

I know what the words mean. I heard these stories when I was little and back then, I discarded them as fairy tales, but I’m older –and maybe a little wiser now. I realize that there must be some truth to them.

 

“This book speaks of the things which would have happened if you hadn’t entered my cabin during that cold night,” Fay says as he turns the pages. She looks up, eyes me, and offers me a reassuring smile. “None of your other children will come into existence in this world. Fenrir won’t swallow Odin and kill him. Hell won’t aid them in battle and Jörmungandr won’t poison Thor. Instead of Heimdall and you killing each other, you have become friends. Loki… When you made the decision to seek me out that night, the thread the Norns were spinning for this particular future split in two. When you made the decision to fight for Thor and admit your love for him, this particular future vanished all together. It was –you- who changed the fate of the world, and you changed it for the better.”

 

She turns another page and I look upon my hideous offspring; Fenrir, the giant wolf, Jörmungandr, the Midgard snake, who would have caused Thor’s death, and Hell…my nightmarish daughter.

 

“Your son Cariad will ascend to the throne of Asgard in the future, and under his rule, Asgard will flourish. Loki, you made all the right choices in the past. I know that you feel lacking – still, after all this time, and maybe it helps knowing that you saved your loved ones and your world as a whole. Thanks to you none of this will come to pass.”

 

She closes the book and it vanishes into thin air. It’s like it’s never been here, but I know the truth. “Are you sure that I won’t cause the destruction of the world after all?”

 

“I’m sure! Oh Loki… It’s that self-doubt and fear that changed your love for Thor into hate in that other future. That will never happen now – Thor loves you dearly and you would die to keep him safe. Cariad will be a great warrior and even better a ruler…”


Fay moves closer and whispers into my ear, “In case you’d like to know…He’ll fall in love with Sif’s daughter and they’ll be happy… Sif and Fandral will be happy too,” she adds and gives me a wink.

 

Slowly, I start to feel reassured and I look her in the eye. “Why did you do this for me? You didn’t know me until we met that night… Why do you care for me? And Asgard, the Nine Worlds, Thor, Sleipnir…why?”

 

“That’s where you are wrong, Loki… I have known you all my life.” Fay raises her arm and rests her hand on my shoulder. “When Odin found you in that temple, I was present as well. I had entered the shrine before he did… The battle had drawn me there – the sheer amount of death and violence had caused me to appear as the Morrígan, and when I heard you cry out –like Odin did – I walked into the temple. Had Odin not claimed you as his son, I would have.”

 

I blink in surprise. “I didn’t know that.”

 

“You can’t know everything, Loki – not even you,” she says and winks at me. “Now tell me, did you learn anything from what I told you? Did you hear what you needed to hear?”

 

Her question sounds odd, but I know why she’s asking it. “I did… I should stop doubting myself and savor having a family. I should accept they love me… Thor, Sleipnir, and Cariad… I should allow my friends close… Except for Sif, I have been trying to keep them at an emotional distance.”

 

“And do not be too hard on your father. Odin pretends to be all-knowing, but he isn’t. When he made his decisions he thought they were in your best interest, but he made mistakes – like you did.”

 

I nod. “You’re right…”

 

“Loki, it’s time for me to leave you now… No, not forever,” she adds upon seeing my stunned expression. “I’ll always keep an eye on you, and should you ever need me, call me… I’ll come.” She actually chuckles. “Maybe in time, you’ll desire another child – a daughter… who knows…”

 

“No.” I shake my head resolutely. “I’m not going through another pregnancy!”

 

“Maybe…maybe not…” she hints. “Loki, Cariad means love in my language… Remember that everyone needs to love and be loved… But I believe you learned that lesson best…” Fay raises her hand in goodbye and then vanishes, leaving me alone. Thankfully she took that accursed book with her. The things it speaks off will never come to pass now – I must remember that.

 

```

 

I need some time alone after my encounter with Fay, and when I return to my rooms a few hours later, Thor already eagerly awaits me. Volstagg sits on the floor and amuses Cariad by letting my son catch his beard with his tiny fingers. In the corner of the room, seated close to Thor, is Sleipnir. His face’s alight with happiness and his smile infectious as I start smiling as well.

 

Taking in the scene in front of me, I realize that Fay’s right. I have been blessed in many ways. Thor loves me and will always support me, no matter what I do. My lost son returned to me, and Sleipnir and I will deepen that bond throughout time. And then there’s Cariad – the center of my world at the moment.

 

Cariad must have sensed my thoughts – or emotions – as he loses interest and stops pulling Volstagg’s beard. Instead, my son start to crawl toward me – cooing, and unfortunately, also drooling a bit. I walk toward him and pick him up. Now that he’s in my arms, Cariad tries to wrap his short arms around my neck and I let him.

 

Thor raises an arm in greeting and I walk over to him. I slide onto his lap, make myself comfortable, and enjoy the sensation of Thor wrapping me up in an embrace.

 

Ragnarök will never happen. Thor won’t die… I won’t kill Heimdall and Odin will live on. It’s hard to believe that I changed the fate of the world – but I did.

 

The end